Author(s): Devasagayam TP, Tilak JC, Boloor KK, Sane KS
Free radicals and related species have attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. They are mainly derived from oxygen (reactive oxygen species/ROS) and nitrogen (reactive nitrogen species/RNS), and are generated in our body by various endogenous systems, exposure to different physicochemical conditions or pathophysiological states. Free radicals can adversely alter lipids, proteins and DNA and have been implicated in aging and a number of human diseases. Lipids are highly prone to free radical damage resulting in lipid peroxidation that can lead to adverse alterations. Free radical damage to protein can result in loss of enzyme activity. Damage caused to DNA, can result in mutagenesis and carcinogenesis. Redox signaling is a major area of free radical research that is attracting attention. Nature has endowed us with protective antioxidant mechanisms- superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione, glutathione peroxidases and reductase, vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols), vitamin C etc., apart from many dietary components. There are epidemiological evidences correlating higher intake of components/ foods with antioxidant abilities to lower incidence of various human morbidities or mortalities. Current research reveals the different potential applications of antioxidant/free radical manipulations in prevention or control of disease. Natural products from dietary components such as Indian spices and medicinal plants are known to possess antioxidant activity. Newer and future approaches include gene therapy to produce more antioxidants in the body, genetically engineered plant products with higher level of antioxidants, synthetic antioxidant enzymes (SOD mimics), novel biomolecules and the use of functional foods enriched with antioxidants.