Free radical generation occurs continuously within cells as a consequence of common metabolic processes. However, in high concentrations, whether from endogenous or exogenous sources, free radicals can lead to oxidative stress; a harmful process that cause serious damages to all biomolecules in our body hence impairs cell functions and even results in cell death and diseased states. Oxidative injuries accumulate over time and participate in cancer development, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders as well as aging. Nature has bestowed the human body with a complex web of antioxidant defense system including enzymatic antioxidants like glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase, catalase and superoxide dismutase as well as non-enzymatic antioxidants such as thiol antioxidants, melatonin, coenzyme Q, and metal chelating proteins, which are efficient enough to fight against excessive free radicals. Also, nutrient antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, polyphenols, and trace elements are known to have high antioxidant potency to assist in minimizing harmful effects of reactive species. The immune system is also extremely vulnerable to oxidant and antioxidant balance as uncontrolled free radical production can impair its function and defense mechanism. The present paper reviews the ways by which free radicals form in the body and promote tissue damage, as well as the role of the antioxidants defense mechanisms. Finally, we will have a brief glance at oxidants and antioxidants relevance to the immune system.
Keywords: Antioxidants; Free radicals; Immune system; Oxidative stress.
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