Breath alkanes as a marker of oxidative stress in different clinical conditions

Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 Mar 15;28(6):880-6. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(00)00189-1.


We assessed oxidative stress in three different clinical conditions: smoking, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, and inflammatory bowel disease, using breath alkane output and other lipid peroxidation parameters such as plasma lipid peroxides (LPO) and malondialdehyde (MDA). Antioxidant micronutrients such as selenium, vitamin E, C, beta-carotene and carotenoids were also measured. Lipid peroxidation was significantly higher and antioxidant vitamins significantly lower in smokers compared to nonsmokers. Beta-carotene or vitamin E supplementation significantly reduced lipid peroxidation in that population. However, vitamin C supplementation had no effect. In HIV-infected subjects, lipid peroxidation parameters were also elevated and antioxidant vitamins reduced compared to seronegative controls. Vitamin E and C supplementation resulted in a significant decrease in lipid peroxidation with a trend toward a reduction in viral load. In patients with inflammatory bowel disease, breath alkane output was also significantly elevated when compared to healthy controls. A trial with vitamin E and C is underway. In conclusion, breath alkane output, plasma LPO and MDA are elevated in certain clinical conditions such as smoking, HIV infection, and inflammatory bowel disease. This is associated with lower levels of antioxidant micronutrients. Supplementation with antioxidant vitamins significantly reduced these lipid peroxidation parameters. The results suggest that these measures are good markers for lipid peroxidation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkanes / analysis*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Crohn Disease / metabolism
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxides / blood
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Smoking / metabolism


  • Alkanes
  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers
  • Lipid Peroxides