Plastic Surgery: Case Studies

Protein Mass Spectrometry Research Articles

Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, thereby leading to chain reactions that may damage the cells of organisms. Antioxidants such as thiols or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) terminate these chain reactions. To balance the oxidative stress, plants and animals maintain complex systems of overlapping antioxidants, such as glutathione and enzymes (e.g., catalase and superoxide dismutase), produced internally, or the dietary antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E. The term "antioxidant" is mostly used for two entirely different groups of substances: industrial chemicals that are added to products to prevent oxidation, and naturally occurring compounds that are present in foods and tissue. The former, industrial antioxidants, have diverse uses: acting as preservatives in food and cosmetics, and being oxidation-inhibitors in fuels. Although certain levels of antioxidant vitamins in the diet are required for good health, there is still considerable debate on whether antioxidant-rich foods or supplements have anti-disease activity. Moreover, if they are actually beneficial, it is unknown which antioxidants are health-promoting in the diet and in what amounts beyond typical dietary intake. Some authors dispute the hypothesis that antioxidant vitamins could prevent chronic diseases, and others declare that the hypothesis is unproven and misguided. Polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties in vitro, have unknown antioxidant activity in vivo due to extensive metabolism following digestion and little clinical evidence of efficacy. A paradox in metabolism is that, while the vast majority of complex life on Earth requires oxygen for its existence, oxygen is a highly reactive molecule that damages living organisms by producing reactive oxygen species. Consequently, organisms contain a complex network of antioxidant metabolites and enzymes that work together to prevent oxidative damage to cellular components such as DNA, proteins and lipids. In general, antioxidant systems either prevent these reactive species from being formed, or remove them before they can damage vital components of the cell. However, reactive oxygen species also have useful cellular functions, such as redox signaling. Thus, the function of antioxidant systems is not to remove oxidants entirely, but instead to keep them at an optimum level.

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