Role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in daily nutrition and human health

Nutrition. 2017 Jan:33:311-321. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2016.07.018. Epub 2016 Aug 8.


Diet may be defined as a complex process that should involve a deeper comprehension of metabolism, energy balance, and the molecular pathways involved in cellular stress response and survival, gut microflora genetics, enzymatic polymorphism within the human population, and the role of plant-derived polyphenols in this context. Metabolic syndrome, encompassing pathologies with a relatively high morbidity, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, is a bullet point of the big concern about how daily dietary habits should promote health and prevent metabolic impairments to prevent hospitalization and the need for health care. From a clinical point of view, very few papers deal with this concern, whereas most of the evidence reported focuses on in vitro and animal models, which study the activity of phytochemicals contained in the daily diet. A fundamental issue addressed by dietitians deals with the role exerted by redox-derived reactive species. Most plant polyphenols act as antioxidants, but recent evidence supports the idea that these compounds primarily activate a mild oxidative stress to elicit a positive, beneficial response from cells. How these compounds may act upon the detoxifying system exerting a scavenging role from reactive oxygen or nitrogen species is still a matter of debate; however, it can be argued that their role is even more complex than expected, acting as signaling molecules in the cross-talk mitochondria-endoplasmic reticulum and in enzymatic pathways involved in the energetic balance. In this relationship, a fundamental role is played by the brain-adipose tissue-gut axis. The aim of this review was to elucidate this topic and the state of art about the role of reactive species in cell signaling and the function of metabolism and survival to reappraise the role of plant-derived chemicals.

Keywords: Antioxidant effect; Metabolic syndrome; Obesity; Oxidative stress; Phytochemicals; Reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control*
  • Diet, Healthy*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use
  • Precision Medicine


  • Antioxidants
  • Phytochemicals