Understanding oxidants and antioxidants: Classical team with new players

J Food Biochem. 2020 Mar;44(3):e13145. doi: 10.1111/jfbc.13145. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


The free radical oxidants such as reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, and reactive sulfur species are produced inside cells through various metabolic processes. The body is equipped with an antioxidant defense system that guards against oxidative damage caused by these reactive oxidants and plays a major role in protecting cells from oxidative stress and damage. Antioxidants such as glutathione (GSH), thioredoxin, ascorbic acid and enzymes, for example, superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), catalase (CAT) counter the oxidative stress and protect lipids, proteins, and DNA. Antioxidants such as tocopherols, ascorbic acid, carotenoids, flavonoids, amino acids are also natural antioxidants present in foods. There is increasing demand and availability of designer foods fortified with antioxidants and probiotics that may be important in human health. The review article presents a brief overview of oxidants and antioxidant systems inside the human body including the role of probiotics and inflammation. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Antioxidants such as GSH, thioredoxin, ascorbic acid, etc. and protective enzymes, for example, SOD, GPx, CAT, etc. counter oxidative stress and protect cellular biomolecules. Antioxidants such as tocopherols, ascorbic acid, carotenoids, flavonoids, amino acids, phospholipids, and sterols are natural antioxidants found in consumed foods. They play a major role in scavenging free radical and non-radical oxidants, and protect cells from oxidative stress and damage. The importance of antioxidants can be understood from the fact that oxidative damage is now associated with a variety of diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, etc. Several approaches to improve human health and achieve longevity use dietary antioxidants as formulation in diet and fortified foods. Antioxidants also maintain freshness and prolonging the shelf life of food products. The fortified or designer foods that are added with antioxidant nutrients and the use of microorganisms as probiotics are increasingly available in the market as health foods and supplements.

Keywords: antioxidants; enzymatic antioxidants; free radicals; functional foods; natural antioxidants; oxidants; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants*
  • Free Radicals
  • Oxidants*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radicals
  • Oxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species