Free radicals, antioxidants, and nutrition. Academic Article uri icon


  • Radiation hazards in outer space present an enormous challenge for the biological safety of astronauts. A deleterious effect of radiation is the production of reactive oxygen species, which result in damage to biomolecules (e.g., lipid, protein, amino acids, and DNA). Understanding free radical biology is necessary for designing an optimal nutritional countermeasure against space radiation-induced cytotoxicity. Free radicals (e.g., superoxide, nitric oxide, and hydroxyl radicals) and other reactive species (e.g., hydrogen peroxide, peroxynitrite, and hypochlorous acid) are produced in the body, primarily as a result of aerobic metabolism. Antioxidants (e.g., glutathione, arginine, citrulline, taurine, creatine, selenium, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin A, and tea polyphenols) and antioxidant enzymes (e.g., superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione reductase, and glutathione peroxidases) exert synergistic actions in scavenging free radicals. There has been growing evidence over the past three decades showing that malnutrition (e.g., dietary deficiencies of protein, selenium, and zinc) or excess of certain nutrients (e.g., iron and vitamin C) gives rise to the oxidation of biomolecules and cell injury. A large body of the literature supports the notion that dietary antioxidants are useful radioprotectors and play an important role in preventing many human diseases (e.g., cancer, atherosclerosis, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, neurodegeneration, and diabetes). The knowledge of enzymatic and non-enzymatic oxidative defense mechanisms will serve as a guiding principle for establishing the most effective nutrition support to ensure the biological safety of manned space missions.

published proceedings

  • Nutrition

altmetric score

  • 38.212

author list (cited authors)

  • Fang, Y., Yang, S., & Wu, G.

citation count

  • 1751

complete list of authors

  • Fang, Yun-Zhong||Yang, Sheng||Wu, Guoyao

publication date

  • October 2002