The chemistry behind antioxidant capacity assays

J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Mar 23;53(6):1841-56. doi: 10.1021/jf030723c.


This review summarizes the multifaceted aspects of antioxidants and the basic kinetic models of inhibited autoxidation and analyzes the chemical principles of antioxidant capacity assays. Depending upon the reactions involved, these assays can roughly be classified into two types: assays based on hydrogen atom transfer (HAT) reactions and assays based on electron transfer (ET). The majority of HAT-based assays apply a competitive reaction scheme, in which antioxidant and substrate compete for thermally generated peroxyl radicals through the decomposition of azo compounds. These assays include inhibition of induced low-density lipoprotein autoxidation, oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), total radical trapping antioxidant parameter (TRAP), and crocin bleaching assays. ET-based assays measure the capacity of an antioxidant in the reduction of an oxidant, which changes color when reduced. The degree of color change is correlated with the sample's antioxidant concentrations. ET-based assays include the total phenols assay by Folin-Ciocalteu reagent (FCR), Trolox equivalence antioxidant capacity (TEAC), ferric ion reducing antioxidant power (FRAP), "total antioxidant potential" assay using a Cu(II) complex as an oxidant, and DPPH. In addition, other assays intended to measure a sample's scavenging capacity of biologically relevant oxidants such as singlet oxygen, superoxide anion, peroxynitrite, and hydroxyl radical are also summarized. On the basis of this analysis, it is suggested that the total phenols assay by FCR be used to quantify an antioxidant's reducing capacity and the ORAC assay to quantify peroxyl radical scavenging capacity. To comprehensively study different aspects of antioxidants, validated and specific assays are needed in addition to these two commonly accepted assays.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / chemistry*
  • Chromans / chemistry
  • Copper / chemistry
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Free Radicals / chemistry
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / chemistry
  • Hydroxyl Radical / chemistry
  • Kinetics
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Molybdenum
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen / chemistry
  • Peroxynitrous Acid / chemistry
  • Phenols / analysis
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / chemistry
  • Singlet Oxygen / chemistry
  • Tungsten Compounds


  • Antioxidants
  • Chromans
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Folin's phenol reagent
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Free Radicals
  • Phenols
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Tungsten Compounds
  • Peroxynitrous Acid
  • Singlet Oxygen
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • Copper
  • Molybdenum
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • 6-hydroxy-2,5,7,8-tetramethylchroman-2-carboxylic acid
  • Oxygen