Dr. Manouchehr Saljoughian from the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, California has reviewed antioxidants.

Lets define terms.

What are they?

  • An antioxidant, or a free-radical scavenger, is a molecule that decreases or prevents oxidation of other molecules.
  • Live plants and animals maintain antioxidant enzymes — catalase, superoxide dismutase, and various peroxidases, plus glutathione, and vitamins C and E.

What are oxidation reactions?

  • Oxidation reactions are crucial for life, but can also be damaging.
  • Low levels of antioxidants or the inability to inhibit antioxidant enzymes causes oxidative stress and may damage or kill cells


  • They’re atoms or molecules that are missing 1 of 2 electrons.
  • This makes them unstable and causes them to replace the missing parts.
  • In the process, other molecules become unstable.

Oxidative stress

  • An imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to detoxify them.
  • Examples of free radicals include hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hypochlorous acid (HClO), and free-radicals such as the hydroxyl radical (-OH) and the superoxide anion (O2-).
  • Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are believed to develop due to oxidative stress.

Antioxidant capacity

  • In food science, the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) is used to measure the antioxidant strength of whole foods, juices, and food additives.

The bottom line?
According to Dr. Saljoughian, “Although some levels of antioxidant vitamins and minerals in the diet are required for good health, there is some doubt as to whether antioxidant supplementation is beneficial and, if so, which antioxidant(s) are beneficial and in what amounts.

1/2/09 20:12 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.