Determination of activity of antioxidants in human subjects

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Evidence from biochemical and animal models suggests that nutritional antioxidants should inhibit the development of diseases such as CHD and certain cancers. This evidence is not clearly corroborated by intervention studies in human subjects, due, in part, to inadequacies in current analytical methodologies. Although in vitro assays can give useful information on the attributes required by a compound to act as an antioxidant, results may have little nutritional relevance due to limited bioavailability. The determination of antioxidants in blood is often used as a measure of antioxidant status in vivo, but may not necessarily reflect concentrations in target tissues where oxidative stress is greatest. In addition, the accumulation of antioxidants in selective tissues may not be apparent from plasma measurements. Participation in quality-control schemes for antioxidant determination by HPLC allows inter-laboratory comparison of results. Moderation of indices of oxidative damage to lipids, proteins and DNA can provide information on the effectiveness of compounds as nutritional antioxidants. However, most current methods of assessing oxidative stress are subject to confounding factors of non-oxidative origin. Assays for total antioxidant capacity in plasma differ in their type of oxidation source, target and measurement used to detect the oxidized product. They give different results, should never be used in isolation, and results should be interpreted with caution. Until more is known about the activity and metabolic fate of antioxidants, caution should be exercised in the consumption of large amounts of commercially-available antioxidant preparations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1024
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999


  • antioxidants
  • oxidative damage
  • performance liquid-chromatography
  • vitamin-E supplementation
  • beta-carotene
  • lipid-peroxidation
  • alpha-tocopherol
  • biological antioxidant
  • plasma
  • capacity
  • smokers
  • bioavailability


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