Research in Environment and Life Sciences 1328
2016 RELS ISSN: 0974-4908
http://rels.comxa.com Res. Environ. Life Sci.
firstname.lastname@example.org 9(11) 1328-1331 (2016)
Antioxidants and its functions in human body - A Review
Anuj Yadav*1, Rewa Kumari2, Ashwani Yadav, J.P. Mishra, Seweta Srivatva and Shashi Prabha
*1U.P. Council of Agricultural Research, Lucknow, India
2Department of Food Processing and Technology, Bilaspur University, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India
(Received: January 08, 2015; Revised received: August 18, 2016; Accepted: August 22, 2016)
Abstract: Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. Antioxidants are found in many foods,
including fruits and vegetables. Although oxidation reactions are crucial for life, they can also be damaging; plants and animals maintain complex systems
of multiple types of antioxidants, such as glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E as well as enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase
and various peroxides. Traditional herbal medicines, dietary foods were the main source of antioxidant for ancient peoples that protected them from the
damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants are widely used in dietary supplements and have been investigated for the prevention of diseases such as
cancer, coronary heart disease and even altitude sickness. Although initial studies suggested that antioxidant supplements might promote health, later large
clinical trials of antioxidant supplements including beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E singly or in different combinations suggest that supplementation
has no effect on mortality or possibly increases it. These are also use in the food industry in the form of preservatives in foods and cosmetics and to prevent
the degradation to rubber and gasoline.
Key word: Antioxidants, Type of antioxidants, Source of antioxidants, Role of antioxidants
Antioxidants are believed to play a very important role in the
body defense system against ROS Boxin et al. (2002), Vivek and
Surendra (2006). In another term antioxidant is “any substance that,
when present at low concentrations compared with that of an oxidizable
substrate, significantly delays or inhibits oxidation of that substrate Halliwell
and Gutteridge (1995). Halliwell (2007) reported that an antioxidant is
“any substance that delays, prevents or removes oxidative damage to
a target molecule. Antioxidants are an inhibitor of the process of oxidation,
even at relatively small concentration and thus have diverse physiological
role in the body. Antioxidant constituents of the plant material act as
radical scavengers, and helps in converting the radicals to less reactive
species. A variety of free radical scavenging antioxidants is found in
dietary sources like fruits, vegetables and tea, etc. This review presents
some information about the antioxidant/antiradicals and their role in our
body and also their presence in spices and herbs Nema et al. (2009).
Mark Perciva (1998) Antioxidants are our first line of defense against
free radical damage, and are critical for maintaining optimum health and
well being. Regular consumption of anti-oxidative vegetables and fruits
has been recognized as reducing the risk of chronic diseases
Dembinska-Kiec et al. (2008). Studies demonstrate that an antioxidant-
rich diet has a very positive health impact in the long run Sin et al.
(2013) and Willis et al. (2009). It is a well-known fact that citrus fruits
(oranges, lemons, etc.) contain a high amount of natural antioxidants,
such as vitamin C. Blueberries, strawberries, grapes, plums, prunes,
red beans, spinach, kale, broccoli flowers, alfalfa sprouts, and more
have been proven to contain a high amount of antioxidants and have
been incorporated into many dietary menus Cao et al. (1998) and
Grossman et al. (1994). Recent studies also suggested that fruit-like
jackfruit, araticu-domato, pindo palm, and mandacaru-de-trêsquinas
are good sources of vitamins C and A and phenolic compounds (Swami
et al. (2012) and Pereira et al. (2013). In addition, there are studies that
research genetic, chemical, or biological modification in order to increase
the antioxidant potency of fruits (Gomes et al. (2013).
Various type antioxidants: In present time various antioxidant
found in food viz. natural antioxidants, synthetic antioxidants, dietary
antioxidant, endogenous antioxidant which play a important role in
preservation of food.
Dietary antioxidants: The dietary antioxidants such as ascorbates,
tocopherols and carotenoids are well known and there is a surplus of
publications related to their role in health Boskou et al. (2005). Vitamin
C, vitamin E, and beta carotene, Beta carotene and other carotenoids
and oxycarotenoids, e.g., lycopene and luteinare among the most
widely studied dietary antioxidants. In extracellular fluids vitamin C is
considered the most important water-soluble antioxidant. It is capable
of neutralizing ROS in the aqueous phase before lipid peroxidation
is initiated. Vitamin E, a major lipid-soluble antioxidant, is the most
effective chain-breaking antioxidant within the cell membrane where
it protects membrane fatty acids from lipid peroxidation. Vitamin C
has been cited as being capable of regenerating vitamin E Sies
(1992). Beta carotene and other carotenoids are also believed to
provide antioxidant protection to lipid-rich tissues. Research suggests
beta carotene may work synergistically with vitamin E Jocab (1995).
In plants, flavonoids serve as protectors against a wide variety of
environmental stresses while, in humans, flavonoids appear to
function as “biological response modifiers.” Flavonoids have been
demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, anti-viral,
anti-aging, and anti-carcinogenic activity Cody et al. (1986); Kuhnau
et al. (1976); Havsteen (1983) and Middleton (1984).
Synthetic antioxidant: Synthetic antioxidants are chemically
synthesized since they do not occur in nature and are added to food
as preservatives to help prevent lipid oxidation Shahidi et al. (1992).
These antioxidants fall into two major categories depending on their
mode of action Primary antioxidants and Secondary antioxidants.
The primary antioxidants, which prevent the formation of free radicals
during oxidation, can further include three major categories.
Natural antioxidant: Natural antioxidants are constituents of many
fruits and vegetables and they have attracted a great deal of public
Research in Environment and Life Sciences 1329 November, 2016
Yadav et al.
and scientific attention Diwani et al. (2009). Natural antioxidants occur
in all parts of plants. Food tissues, because they are (or were) living,
are under constant oxidative stress from free radicals, reactive oxygen
species, and prooxidants generated both exogenously (heat and
light) and endogenously (H2O2 and transition metals). For this reason,
many of these tissues have developed antioxidant systems to control
free radicals, lipid oxidation catalysts, oxidation intermediates, and
secondary breakdown products Nakatani (2003), Agati and others
(2007), Brown and Kelly (2007), Chen (2008), Iacopini and others
(2008). These antioxidant compounds include flavonoids, phenolic
acids, carotenoids, and tocopherols that can inhibit Fe3 induced
oxidation, scavenge free radicals, and act as reductants Khanduja
(2003), Ozsoy and others (2009). Spices and herbs, used in foods
for their flavor and in medicinal mixtures for their physiological effects,
often contain high concentrations of phenolic compounds that have
strong H-donating activity Lugasi and others (1995), Muchuweti
and others ( 2007). Natural antioxidants are those oxidants that are
found in natural sources, such as fruits, vegetables and meats.
There are several common natural antioxidants which are found in
everyday foods, the most common of which being Vitamin C (ascorbic
acid), Vitamin E (tocopherols), Vitamin A (carotenoids), various
polyphenols including flavonoids, and Anthocyanins (a type of
flavonoid), Lycopene (a type of carotenoid), And Coenzyme Q 10,
also known as Ubiquitin, which is a type of protein.
Endogenous antioxidants: In addition to dietary antioxidants, the
body relies on several endogenous defense mechanisms to help
protect against free radical-induced cell damage. The antioxidant
enzymes – glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide
dismutase (SOD) – metabolize oxidative toxic intermediates and require
micronutrient cofactors such as selenium, iron, copper, zinc, and
manganese for optimum catalytic activity. It has been suggested that
an inadequate dietary intake of these trace minerals may compromise
the effectiveness of these antioxidant defense mechanisms Duthie
and Brown (1994). Glutathione, an important water-soluble antioxidant,
is synthesized from the amino acids glycine, glutamate, and cysteine.
Glutathione directly quenches ROS such as lipid peroxides, and also
plays a major role in xenobiotic metabolism. Exposure of the liver to
xenobiotic substances induces oxidative reactions through the
upregulation of detoxification enzymes, i.e., cytochrome P-450 mixed-
function oxidase. When an individual is exposed to high levels of
xenobiotics, more glutathione is utilized for conjugation (a key step in
the body’s detoxification process) making it less available to serve as
an antioxidant. Research suggests that glutathione and vitamin C
work interactively to quench free radicals and that they have a sparing
effect upon each other Jocab (1995). Lipoic acid, yet another important
endogenous antioxidant, categorized as a “thiol” or “biothiol,” is a
sulfur-containing molecule that is known for its involvement in the
reaction that catalyzes the oxidative decarboxylation of alpha-keto
acids, such as pyruvate and alphaketoglutarate, in the Krebs cycle.
Lipoic acid may also exert its antioxidant effect by chelating with pro-
oxidant metals. Research further suggests that lipoic acid has a sparing
effect on other antioxidants Kagen (1992).
Exogenous: Exogenous antioxidants can derive from natural
sources (vitamins, flavonoids, anthocyanins, some mineral
compounds), but can also be synthetic compounds, like
butylhydroxyanisole, butylhydroxytoluene, gallates, etc. Litescu et
al. (2011). There is an increasing interest in antioxidants, particularly
in those intended to prevent the presumed deleterious effects of free
radicals in the human body, as well as the deterioration of fats and
other constituents of foodstuffs Molyneux (2004).
Source of antioxidants: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, α-carotene ,
Licopein, Selenium, Polyphenol, Glutathione, Proxidase, Cystine
are main sources of antioxidants. Fruit juices, beverages and hot
drinks contain high amounts of antioxidants, like polyphenols, vitamin
C, vitamin E, Maillard reaction products, â-carotene, and lycopene
Ramadan-Hassanien (2008). The consumption of fruit juices,
beverages and hot drinks was found to reduce the morbidity and
mortality caused by degenerative diseases Gillman et al. (1995);
Rimm et al. (1996); Cohen et al. (2000); La et al. (2001); Terry et
al. (2001); Rodriguez and Costa (2006). The recommendations
based on epidemiological studies are such, that fruits, vegetables
and less processed staple foods ensure the best protection against
the development of diseases caused by oxidative stress, such as
cancer, coronary heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes,
hypertension and cataract Halvorsen et al. (2002). The explanation
consists in the beneficial health effect, due to antioxidants present in
fruit and vegetables Halvorsen et al. (2006).
Function of antioxidants: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
defines antioxidants only as dietary supplements to be taken in addition
to normal food consumption in an effort to prevent these diseases
Ohlsson and Bengston (2002). Antioxidants are known to play a key
role in the protective influence exerted by plant foods Gey KF (1990),
Gey KF et al. (1991) Willett WC (1991), Liyana et al. 2006). Regular
consumption of vegetables and fruits has been recognized as reducing
the risk of chronic diseases Dembinska et al. (2008). Studies
demonstrate that an antioxidant-rich diet has a very positive health
impact in the long run Sin et al. (2013) and Wills et al. (2009). Recently,
antioxidants have attracted considerable attention in relation to radicals
and oxidative stress, cancer prophylaxis and therapy, and longevity
Kalcher et al. (2009). All antioxidants are working in concert as a
team, the (antioxidant system), responsible for prevention of the
damaging effects of free radicals and toxic products of their metabolism.
However, the antioxidant (team) acts to control levels of free radical
formation as a coordinated system where deficiencies in one
component impact the efficiency of others Peter (2007). Four possible
mechanisms have been suggested John (1989 by which antioxidants
function to reduce the rate of oxidation of fats and oils. These are
hydrogen donation by antioxidants, electron donation by antioxidants,
addition of lipid to the antioxidants and formation of a complex between
lipid and antioxidants. Among food components fighting against chronic
diseases, great attention has been paid to phyto-chemicals, plant-
derived molecules endowed with steady antioxidant power. The
cumulative and synergistic activities of the bioactive molecules present
in plant food are responsible for their enhanced antioxidant properties.
Function of Vitamin C: Vitamin C intake is inversely related to
cancer, with protective effects shown for cancer of the lung, breast,
pancreas, stomach, cervix, rectum and oral cavity Simon et al.
(2001). In stressful situations adrenal glands react by releasing
hormones that trigger the “fight or flight” reaction. It has been indicated
that 200mg of vitamin C a day may reduce the levels of stress
hormones. Stress suppresses the immune system. Mega doses of
vitamin C increase the levels of antibody that fights against germs
and viruses in both stressed and unstressed rats, with greater
antibody increase in the unstressed rats Block (1999).
Antioxidants and its functions
Research in Environment and Life Sciences 1330
Yadav et al.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is one of the most important lipid-soluble primary
defense antioxidants Handan et al. (2007); Paul and Sumit (2002);
Abdalla (2009). It is a generic term used for several naturally occurring
tocopherols and tocotrienols. In its function as a chain-breaking
antioxidant, vitamin E rapidly transfers its phenolic H-atom to a lipid
peroxyl radical, converting it into a lipid hydroperoxide and a vitamin
E radical Bashir et al. (2004). Tocopherols (vitamin E) and tocotrienols
(provitamin E) are powerful antioxidants that confer oxidative stability
to red palm olein (RPO) as well as help to keep the carotenoids and
other quality parameters of the oil stable (Nesma et al., 2010). Vitamin
E scavenges peroxyl radical intermediates in lipid peroxidation and
responsible for protecting Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) present
in cell membrane and density lipoprotein (LDL), against lipid
peroxidation Vivek and Surendra (2006). A fat-soluble vitamin that
can be stored with fat in the liver and other tissues, vitamin E
(tocopherols, tocotrienols) is promoted for a range of purposes from
delaying aging to healing sun burn. The various function are maintains
normal conditions of cells, and healthy skin and tissues, Protects red
blood cells, antioxidation, enhance immunity. The important sources
of vitamin E include wheat germ, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green
leafy vegetables, vegetable oil and fish-liver oil.
β-Carotene: Beta-carotene has antioxidant properties that can
help neutralize free radicals – reactive oxygen molecules potentially
damaging lipids in cell membranes and genetic material, which may
lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer
Pavia et al. (1999). At present, it is unclear whether some beneficial
effects of beta-carotene and other carotenoids in humans are a
result of their antioxidant activity or other non-antioxidant
mechanisms. The relevance of deactivating reactive oxygen species
to human health, potentially preventing diseases such as cancer
and coronary heart disease, is not clear. In vitro studies indicate
that carotenoids can also inhibit the oxidation of fats under certain
conditions. They may have anti-atherosclerotic potential, but their
effects in humans appear to be more complex Young et al. (2001).
Selenium: Selenium is mostly known for its potential antioxidant
properties. Indeed, it is a required oligoelement for the synthesis
and function of about 20-40 enzymes, among which most of them
help prevent cellular damage from natural by-products of oxygen
metabolism, called reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals
Hawkes and Alkan (2010); Higuchi et al. (2010 ). Selenium is also
essential for the proper function of the immune system and is known
to have antiviral properties Mckenzie et al. (1998); Levander (1997).
Effects on inflammatory responses are among the other key activities
identified for selenoproteins Curran et al. (2005).
Polyphenol antioxidant: Current evidence strongly supports a
contribution of polyphenols to the prevention of cardiovascular
diseases, cancers and osteoporosis and suggests a role in the
prevention of neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes mellitus
Scalbert et al. (2005). Significant progress has been made in the
field of cardiovascular diseases, and today it is well established that
some polyphenols, administered as supplements or with food, do
improve health status, as indicated by several biomarkers closely
associated with cardiovascular risk Vita (2005). Arts et al. (2005)
reported that epidemiologic studies tend to confirm the protective
effects of polyphenol consumption against cardiovascular diseases.
Glutathione: Dolas and Gotmare (2015) reported that Glutathione
protects cells from toxins such as free radicals. The human body
produces glutathione from the synthesis of three key amino acids-
cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid. Food sources with the highest
amounts of naturally occurring glutathione include; asparagus,
avocado, grapefruit, squash, potato, cantaloupe, peach, zucchini,
spinach, broccoli, watermelon, and strawberries. Fish, meat, and foods
which yield sulfur containing amino acids (e.g. eggs) are the preferred
sources for maintaining and increasing bodily glutathione levels.
Peroxidase: Dolas and Gotmare (2015) reported that an enzyme
occurring especially in plants, milk, and leukocytes and consisting of
a protein complex with hematin groups that catalyzes the oxidation
of various substances. Food sources of peroxidase include
horseradish root, soybean, mango fruit, and turnip.
Flavonoids: Sunil Kumar (2014) reported that Flavonoids promote
antioxidant activity, cellular health and normal tisse growth and
renewal throughout the body. They also work with vitamin C to
reduce oxidative stress for the water based portion of the cell and
may slow down some of the effects of aging. There are more than
4,000 unique flavonoids and they are most effective when several
types are consumed together. Food sources include: cranberries,
kale, beets, berries, red and black grapes, oranges, lemons,
grapefruits and green tea Banerjee et al. (1993).
Antioxidants are present in foods as vitamins, minerals,
carotenoids, and polyphenols, among others. Natural antioxidant ,
Synthetic antioxidant and Dietary antioxidant play a vital role in our
body. Endogenous and Exogenous are also play an important role
in human body. The main function of antioxidants is to prevent oxidation
in various contexts. The human body is protected from cardiovascular,
neurological and carcinogenic diseases, delaying chronic health
problems like cataracts by the use of antioxidants. The recommendations
based on epidemiological studies are such that fruits and vegetables
ensure the best protection against the development of diseases
caused by oxidative stress, such as cancer, coronary heart disease,
obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cataract.
Authors are greatly thankful for the financial support provide
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Antioxidants and its functions