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Antioxidants, Pro-oxidants, and Their Effects-Reply

Wolfgang Schalch, PhD
JAMA. 1994;272(21):1660. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520210043028.
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In Reply.  —The antioxidant properties of vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene are well recognized in the body under normal physiological conditions, even in individuals taking supplements in excess of RDAs. These micronutrients are important in human cellular protection because of their antioxidant functions, which have been documented extensively in biologically significant contexts. As with all antioxidants, there is the potential for formation of their own radical species during the processes by which highly reactive free radicals are quenched. However, the so-called pro-oxidant forms of vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene are much less reactive and have lower energy levels than the free radicals that they neutralize. Thus, the reactivity of antioxidants in pro-oxidant forms is much less than that of the harmful radicals associated with damage to tissues and organs of the body. Hence, the antioxidant functions of these micronutrients are the attributes that are biologically relevant,

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