We exposed human blood plasma and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to many different oxidative challenges and followed the temporal consumption of endogenous antioxidants in relation to the initiation of oxidative damage. Under all types of oxidizing conditions, ascorbic acid completely protects lipids in plasma and LDL against detectable peroxidative damage as assessed by a specific and highly sensitive assay for lipid peroxidation. Ascorbic acid proved to be superior to the other water-soluble plasma antioxidants bilirubin, uric acid, and protein thiols as well as to the lipoprotein-associated antioxidants alpha-tocopherol, ubiquinol-10, lycopene, and beta-carotene. Although these antioxidants can lower the rate of detectable lipid peroxidation, they are not able to prevent its initiation. Only ascorbic acid is reactive enough to effectively intercept oxidants in the aqueous phase before they can attack and cause detectable oxidative damage to lipids.