Mechanisms of aging: an appraisal of the oxidative stress hypothesis

Free Radic Biol Med. 2002 Sep 1;33(5):575-86. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(02)00886-9.


The main purpose of this article is to provide a critical overview of the currently available evidence bearing on the validity of the oxidative stress hypothesis of aging, which postulates that senescence-associated attenuations in physiological functions are caused by molecular oxidative damage. Several lines of correlative evidence support the predictions of the hypothesis, e.g., macromolecular oxidative damage increases with age and tends to be associated with life expectancy of organisms. Nevertheless, a direct link between oxidative stress and aging has not as yet been established. Single gene mutations have been reported to extend the life spans of lower organisms, such as nematodes and insects; however, such prolongations of chronological clock time survival are usually associated with decreases in the rate of metabolism and reproductive output without affecting the metabolic potential, i.e., the total amount of energy consumed during life. Studies on genetic manipulations of the aging process have often been conducted on relatively short-lived strains that are physiologically weak, whereby life-span extensions can not be unambiguously assigned to a slowing effect on the rate of aging. It is concluded that although there is considerable evidence implicating oxidative stress in the aging process, additional evidence is needed to clearly define the nature of the involvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Drosophila
  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Superoxide Dismutase


  • Free Radicals
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Catalase
  • Superoxide Dismutase