J Clin Pathol 54:176-186 doi:10.1136/jcp.54.3.176

Antioxidants in health and disease

  1. I S Young1,
  2. J V Woodside2
  1. 1Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Institute of Clinical Science, Grosvenor Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT12 6BJ, UK
  2. 2Department of Surgery, Royal Free and University College London Medical School, 67–73 Riding House Street, London, W1P 7LD, UK
  1. Professor Young, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Institute of Clinical Science, Royal Group of Hospitals, Grosvenor Road, Belfast BT12 6BJ, UK I.Young{at}
  • Accepted 5 June 2000


Free radical production occurs continuously in all cells as part of normal cellular function. However, excess free radical production originating from endogenous or exogenous sources might play a role in many diseases. Antioxidants prevent free radical induced tissue damage by preventing the formation of radicals, scavenging them, or by promoting their decomposition. This article reviews the basic chemistry of free radical formation in the body, the consequences of free radical induced tissue damage, and the function of antioxidant defence systems, with particular reference to the development of atherosclerosis.