The term antioxidant is widely used but rarely defined. One suggested definition is that an antioxidant is 'a substance that, when present at low concentrations compared with those of an oxidizable substrate, significantly delays or prevents oxidation of that substrate'. Many substances have been suggested to act as antioxidants in vivo, but few have been proved to do so. This chapter addresses the criteria necessary to evaluate a proposed antioxidant activity. Simple methods for assessing the possibility of physiologically feasible scavenging of important biological oxygen-derived species (superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radical, hypochlorous acid, haem-associated ferryl species, radicals derived from activated phagocytes and peroxyl radicals, both lipid-soluble and water-soluble) are presented. Methods that may be used to gain evidence that a compound actually does function as an antioxidant in vivo are discussed.

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