Natural antioxidants and hypertension: promise and challenges

Cardiovasc Ther. 2010 Aug;28(4):e20-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5922.2010.00137.x. Epub 2010 Mar 29.


Hypertension reigns as a leading cause of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality worldwide. Excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) have emerged as a central common pathway by which disparate influences may induce and exacerbate hypertension. Potential sources of excessive ROS in hypertension include nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase, mitochondria, xanthine oxidase, endothelium-derived NO synthase, cyclooxygenase 1 and 2, cytochrome P450 epoxygenase, and transition metals. While a significant body of epidemiological and clinical data suggests that antioxidant-rich diets reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular risk, randomized trials and population studies using natural antioxidants have yielded disappointing results. The reasons behind this lack of efficacy are not completely clear, but likely include a combination of (1) ineffective dosing regimens, (2) the potential pro-oxidant capacity of some of these agents, (3) selection of subjects less likely to benefit from antioxidant therapy (too healthy or too sick), and (4) inefficiency of nonspecific quenching of prevalent ROS versus prevention of excessive ROS production. Commonly used antioxidants include Vitamins A, C and E, L-arginine, flavanoids, and mitochondria-targeted agents (Coenzyme Q10, acetyl-L-carnitine, and alpha-lipoic acid). Various reasons, including incomplete knowledge of the mechanisms of action of these agents, lack of target specificity, and potential interindividual differences in therapeutic efficacy preclude us from recommending any specific natural antioxidant for antihypertensive therapy at this time. This review focuses on recent literature evaluating naturally occurring antioxidants with respect to their impact on hypertension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antihypertensive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / adverse effects
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Patient Selection
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Risk Assessment
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species