Cholesterol oxidation: health hazard and the role of antioxidants in prevention

Biol Res. 2003;36(3-4):291-302. doi: 10.4067/s0716-97602003000300002.


Cholesterol is a molecule with a double bond in its structure and is therefore susceptible to oxidation leading to the formation of oxysterols. These oxidation products are found in many commonly-consumed foods and are formed during their manufacture and/or processing. Concern about oxysterols consumption arises from the potential cytotoxic, mutagenic, atherogenic, and possibly carcinogenic effects of some oxysterols. Eggs and egg-derived products are the main dietary sources of oxysterols. Thermally-processed milk and milk-derived products are another source of oxysterols in our diet. Foods fried in vegetable/animal oil, such as meats and French-fried potatoes, are major sources of oxysterols in the Western diet. Efforts to prevent or to reduce cholesterol oxidation are directed to the use of antioxidants of either synthetic or natural origin. Antioxidants are not only able to inhibit triglyceride oxidation, some of them can also inhibit cholesterol oxidation. Among synthetic antioxidants 2,6-ditertiarybutyl-4-methylphenol (BHT), and tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) can efficiently inhibit the thermal-induced oxidation of cholesterol. Some natural antioxidants, such as alpha- and gamma-tocopherol, rosemary oleoresin extract, and the flavonoid quercetin, show strong inhibitory action against cholesterol oxidation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol, Dietary*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Sterols / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Cholesterol, Dietary
  • Sterols
  • Cholesterol