Role of dietary pro-oxidants in the maintenance of health and resilience to oxidative stress

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37 Citations (Scopus)


The average length of human life is increasing, but so does the incidence of age- and lifestyle-related diseases. Improving diet and lifestyle is a key strategy for lifelong health and underlying mechanisms may well include increasing resilience pathways. The purpose of this review is to highlight and evaluate novel mechanisms by which dietary pro-oxidants, including bioactive phytochemicals and fatty acids, increase reactive oxygen species (ROS) concentrations just enough to activate transcription factor activation of nuclear factor erythroid 2 related factor 2 (Nrf-2) and heat shock factor (HSF), leading to an increase in levels of antioxidant enzymes and heat shock proteins that protect against the damaging effects of ROS. An increasing number of in vivo studies have now shown that dietary pro-oxidant compounds can increase the production of such resilience products. In most studies, dietary pro-oxidants normalized levels of antioxidant enzymes that were decreased by a range of different challenges, rather than raising levels of resilience products per se. Also, it is important to consider that the antioxidant response can be different for different organs. For future studies, however, the measurement of resilience markers may significantly improve our ability to prove the efficacy by which dietary bioactives with pro-oxidant capacities improve lifelong health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1229-1248
Number of pages20
JournalMolecular Nutrition & Food Research
Issue number7
Early online date22 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.


  • antioxidants
  • dietary fatty acids
  • oxidative stress
  • polyphenols
  • resilience


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