Oxidative stress and Alzheimer disease

Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Feb;71(2):621S-629S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/71.2.621s.


Research in the field of molecular biology has helped to provide a better understanding of both the cascade of biochemical events that occurs with Alzheimer disease (AD) and the heterogeneous nature of the disease. One hypothesis that accounts for both the heterogeneous nature of AD and the fact that aging is the most obvious risk factor is that free radicals are involved. The probability of this involvement is supported by the fact that neurons are extremely sensitive to attacks by destructive free radicals. Furthermore, lesions are present in the brains of AD patients that are typically associated with attacks by free radicals (eg, damage to DNA, protein oxidation, lipid peroxidation, and advanced glycosylation end products), and metals (eg, iron, copper, zinc, and aluminum) are present that have catalytic activity that produce free radicals. beta-Amyloid is aggregated and produces more free radicals in the presence of free radicals; beta-amyloid toxicity is eliminated by free radical scavengers. Apolipoprotein E is subject to attacks by free radicals, and apolipoprotein E peroxidation has been correlated with AD. In contrast, apolipoprotein E can act as a free radical scavenger and this behavior is isoform dependent. AD has been linked to mitochondrial anomalies affecting cytochrome-c oxidase, and these anomalies may contribute to the abnormal production of free radicals. Finally, many free radical scavengers (eg, vitamin E, selegeline, and Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761) have produced promising results in relation to AD, as has desferrioxamine-an iron-chelating agent-and antiinflammatory drugs and estrogens, which also have an antioxidant effect.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aluminum / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Apolipoproteins E / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Free Radical Scavengers / metabolism
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Antioxidants
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Free Radicals
  • NF-kappa B
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Iron
  • Zinc