Do low molecular weight antioxidants contribute to the Protection against oxidative damage? The interrelation between oxidative stress and low molecular weight antioxidants based on data from the MARK-AGE study

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2021 Nov 30;713:109061. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2021 Oct 16.


A redox steady state is important in maintaining vital cellular functions and is therefore homeostatically controlled by a number of antioxidative agents, the most important of which are enzymes. Oxidative Stress (OS) is associated with (or/and caused by) excessive production of damaging reactive oxygen and/or nitrogen species (ROS, RNS), which play a role in many pathologies. Because OS is a risk factor for many diseases, much effort (and money) is devoted to early diagnosis and treatment of OS. The desired benefit of the "identify (OS) and treat (by low molecular weight antioxidants, LMWA)" approach is to enable selective treatment of patients under OS. The present work aims at gaining understanding of the benefit of the antioxidants based on interrelationship between the concentration of different OS biomarkers and LMWA. Both the concentrations of a variety of biomarkers and of LMWA were previously determined and some analyses have been published by the MARK-AGE team. For the sake of simplicity, we assume that the concentration of an OS biomarker is a linear function of the concentration of a LMWA (if the association is due to causal relationship). A negative slope of this dependence (and sign of the correlation coefficient) can be intuitively expected for an antioxidant, a positive slope indicates that the LMWA is pro-oxidative, whereas extrapolation of the OS biomarker to [LMWA] = 0 is an approximation of the concentration of the OS biomarker in the absence of the LMWA. Using this strategy, we studied the effects of 12 LMWA (including tocopherols, carotenoids and ascorbic acid) on the OS status, as observed with 8 biomarkers of oxidative damage (including malondialdehyde, protein carbonyls, 3-nitrotyrosine). The results of this communication show that in a cross-sectional study the LMWA contribute little to the redox state and that different "antioxidants" are very different, so that single LMWA treatment of OS is not scientifically justified assuming our simple model. In view of the difficulty of quantitating the OS and the very different effects of various LMWA, the use of the "identify and treat" approach is questionable.

Keywords: Antioxidants; Free radicals; Oxidative stress; Reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Molecular Weight
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*


  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers