Role of antioxidants in health maintenance

Nutr Clin Pract. 1995 Feb;10(1):19-25. doi: 10.1177/011542659501000119.


Free radicals are produced in the body as by products of normal metabolism and as a result of exposure to radiation and some environmental pollutants. Because they are highly reactive, they can damage cellular components and are implicated in a variety of diseases. Free radicals are normally neutralized by efficient systems in the body that include the antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase) and the nutrient-derived antioxidant small molecules (vitamin E, vitamin C, carotenes, flavonoids, glutathione, uric acid, and taurine). In healthy individuals, a delicate balance exists between free radicals and antioxidants. In some pathologic conditions such as diabetes, and in critically ill patients, oxidative stress causes the level of antioxidants to fall below normal. Antioxidant supplements for such conditions are expected to be of benefit. As a preventive measure against certain diseases, the best approach for healthy individuals is to regularly consume adequate amounts of antioxidant-rich foods, eg, fruits and vegetables.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Diet*
  • Free Radicals
  • Health Promotion*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radicals