Reactive oxygen species are thought to be implicated in the pathogenesis of various human diseases. They are generated endogenously under physiological and pathological conditions but also upon exposure to exogenous challenge. The organism maintains defense systems against reactive oxygen species, including enzymes and low-molecular-weight antioxidants. Important antioxidants such as vitamins E and C and carotenoids are provided from the diet, vitamin E, as the major chain-breaking antioxidant, inhibits lipid perox-idation, thus preventing membrane damage and modification of low-density lipoproteins. It is regenerated by the water-soluble vitamin C. Carotenoids efficiently scavenge singlet molecular oxygen and peroxyl radicals. There is increasing evidence from epidemiological studies, animal experiments, and in vitro investigations that an increased intake of antioxidants is associated with a diminished risk for several diseases.

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