Free radical theory of aging

Mutat Res. 1992 Sep;275(3-6):257-66. doi: 10.1016/0921-8734(92)90030-s.


Free radical reactions are ubiquitous in living things. Studies on the origin and evolution of life provide a reasonable explanation for the prominent presence of this unruly class of chemical reactions. These reactions have been implicated in aging. This phenomenon is the accumulation of changes responsible for the sequential alterations that accompany advancing age and the associated progressive increases in the chance of disease and death. Aging changes are attributed to the environment and disease, and to an inborn process, the aging process. The latter produces aging changes at an exponentially increasing rate with advancing age. Past improvements in general living conditions have decreased the chances for death so that they are now near limiting values in the developed countries. In these countries the intrinsic aging process is the major cause of disease and death after about age 28. The free radical theory of aging postulates that aging changes are caused by free radical reactions. The data supporting this theory indicate that average life expectancy at birth may be increased by 5 or more years, by nutritious low caloric diets supplemented with one or more free radical reaction inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Biological Evolution
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Longevity
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radicals