Introduction to our body protectors - the antioxidants and the benefits we get by knowing them.

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Respected Leaders, dear learners and all pharma friends,

Have we ever wondered why a cup of coffee rejuvenates us and keeps us going..........

just when we are about to collapse out of exhaustion!!!

Because Coffee in a measure is a treasure1 as it contains lots and lots of antioxidants.

Why are we advised to have more fruits, nuts and vegetables to look fresh, vibrant, graceful and young?

Fruits, nuts and vegetables are nature's bonanza to us in the form of antioxidants.

What are these antioxidants?

As per Oxford &IBH New Medical Dictionary (page no.48 of Sixth Reprint, 2001), antioxidants are agents that protect against cell damage caused by oxygen free radicals.

In simple terms, just like how iron gets rusted, oxidation process in our body tends to form free radicals.

Free radicals if not neutralized can cause 2

O Damage to our cardiovascular system

O Cancer

O Damage to our immune system

O Damage to skin and organs

O Damage to our brain and cognitive functions.

O Faster ageing symptoms

Antioxidants act as scavengers by neutralizing the damage caused by free radicals to our cells and tissues. They have been found to be effective against oxidation by atmospheric oxygen (auto oxidation). Their main role is to preserve the fixed oils and fats which are susceptible to degradation by the process oxidation.2

An ideal antioxidant3 -

O Must provide satisfactory degree of protection in low concentration.

O Must be non-irritant and non-toxic.

O Must be readily soluble in or dispersible in medium.

O Must not have any objectionable color, odour and taste.

O Must be compatible with other constituents.

Classification of Antioxidants based on their groups

As per Bergel, antioxidants are broadly classified into four groups3-

Quinol group

Catechol group

Nitrogen-containing group

Sulphur-containing group




Cystiene Hydrochloride


Gallic acid

Alkanoamine esters

Monohydric Phenol

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) BP

Ethyl Gallate



Butylated Hydroxytoulene (BHT) BP

Octyl Gallate BP



Importance of classifying antioxidants

In pharmaceutical industry, we classify antioxidants into different groups to enable us to know whether the antioxidant is water soluble or lipid/fat soluble. For example, hydroquinone (quinol group) is soluble in water and only slightly soluble in fats and oils. It is effectively used to preserve halibut and shark-liver oil, successfully protecting the Vitamin A content which is fat soluble. 3

What are synergists

Many antioxidants are quite unstable on their own or in solution and therefore, ineffective. These antioxidants get their stability factor through synergists which are substances that increase the effectiveness of antioxidants.3

For example, the simpler polyphenols are valueless as antioxidants in alkaline solution as they are unstable and too water soluble. Here, the water soluble acid synergists like citric acid, tartaric acid are valuable to stabilize the antioxidant.3

Antioxidants in our diet and their benefits4

Natural Products

Anti oxidants Present

Likely benefits

How to consume?



Prevent free radical damage;

protects the eyes;

enrich Vitamin-A, in body by converting

the Beta-carotene.

Take dried one or buy the firm one. Once soften they loose their nutrients.


Oleic acid

Helps in lowering the Cholesterol

Consume raw


Ellagic Acid

High content of vitamin-C present, used in lowering cholesterol and heart diseases.

We must take this in combination of high fibrous foods like oat meal. Always consume fresh berries.



Prevents from stomach, Colon, Bladder cancer

Tomatoes slices must be taken with olive oil as it absorbs the lycopene fast.

Lemons and limes

Limonene, furocoumarins and vitamin C

Fights against cancer

In juice form


Quercetin (flavanoid)

Fights against cancer

We can have it simply or by roasting it in olive oil and having it.



Helps in reducing queasiness, and also help in treatment of migranes and arthritis

We can have it with honey.


indole-3-carbinol (I3C)

Reduces the risk of breast cancer and other estrogen-sensitive cancers, like cancer of the ovaries and cervix.

Overcooking leads to loss of nutrients. Cook it lightly and consume it.


Lutein and zeaxanthin

The lutein is present in macula (maximum visual sensitivity), it helps in protection of vision.

Consume it in salad form



Lowers the LDL level(bad cholesterol) and lowers the B.P.

Have it during early morning as its effect is more.

Whole grains

Vitamin E,

Phytic acid

Preventing cancer, especially prostate cancer, boost up immunity, slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, prevent arthritis, prevent sunburn and treat male infertility.

Phytic acid- protect against breast, colon and liver cancers.

Regular uptake of it in meals.



Inhibit estrogen-promoted breast cancers

Take it in soups.

Shell fish

Vitamin B-12,

Minerals are also present like -pottasium and magnesium

Promotes brain and nerve function

Cooked form


Omega-3 fatty acids

Helps to reduce the risk of cardiac diseases.

Cooked form

Use of antioxidants in pharmaceutical industry

Antioxidants are added to pharmaceutical formulations as redox systems possessing higher oxidative potential than the drug that they are designed to protect or as chain inhibitors of radical induced decomposition.5 In short,

1. Antioxidants are used in the preparation of semi solids (creams, pastes ointments) whenever oxidative deterioration is anticipated.6

2. Antioxidants like butylhydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylhydroxytoluene (BHT) are used in the preparation of suppositories where they lower the unsaturated fatty acids constituents in the suppository base so that rancidity is prevented.7

3. Antioxidants are used in emulsions to prevent auto-oxidation of the drugs which are incorporated in the emulsions. Eg. Alkyl gallates are used in cosmetic preparations.8

4. Antioxidants like sodium bisulfite and sodium metabisulfite are used in sterile product preparation to protect a theraupeutic agent susceptible to oxidation particularly under the accelerated condition of thermal stabilization.9


1 Advertisement of Coffee Board in Readers Digest (Page no.41 of February, 2011 issue)

2. accessed on 11.2.2011.

3. Cooper and Gunn's Dispencing for Pharmaceutical Students; 12th Edition (Indian Edition); CBS Publishers and Distributors (Appendix I- Reducing Agents and Antioxidants page nos.678-680)

4. - accessed on 05.2.2011

5. Leon Lachman, Herbert A.Lieberman, Joseph L. Kanig; The Theory and Practice of Industrial Pharmacy; Third Edition; Varghese Publishing House; Page no.783

6.Leon Lachman, Herbert A.Lieberman, Joseph L. Kanig; The Theory and Practice of Industrial Pharmacy; Third Edition; Varghese Publishing House; Page no.554

7.Leon Lachman, Herbert A.Lieberman, Joseph L. Kanig; The Theory and Practice of Industrial Pharmacy; Third Edition; Varghese Publishing House; Page no.585

8. Leon Lachman, Herbert A.Lieberman, Joseph L. Kanig; The Theory and Practice of Industrial Pharmacy; Third Edition; Varghese Publishing House; Page no.522-523

9. Leon Lachman, Herbert A.Lieberman, Joseph L. Kanig; The Theory and Practice of Industrial Pharmacy; Third Edition; Varghese Publishing House; Page no.642-644

For the pharmacists to effectively use the antioxidants in their day to day life, it is vital to understand not only what they are but also the mechanism by which they neutralize the free radicals. My friend and co-learner Shruti Priya ( would be trying to explain this in her next blog.

I assure that this blog does not contain plagiarized material,

With regards,

Mridula Jayaraman

Team - Pharma Wings



About the Author


Ph. Bhagavan P S RPh's picture

Thanks Mridula, It was a simple but a good exposure to me. Good blog Congrats. Well can you throw some light on the impact of tobacco and alcohol on rejuvenation.

Bhagavan P.S. B Pharm

Rtd. Dy Dir.(Pharmacy),Govt of Karnataka, India
Gangadhar Hari's picture

Very well organised presentation. Good. I would like to know the mechanism by which synergists stabilize antioxidants?? And please provide me some more examples of synergists??
Sravani kompella's picture

Nice representation Mridula ..I have a doubt. Free radicals cause damage I accept but at times they are also useful for the body then antioxidants by destroying free radicals may interfere with their actions..Can you explain?
Sirisha Pingali's picture

Great information. May i know the role of antioxidants in aging procesS??

Sirisha Pingali

Viswanadha Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Mridula jayaraman's picture

dear sirisha, Thank you very much and sorry, could not reply earlier due to my internal test papers. Research indicate that the processes of oxidation leads to the formation of free radicals. Formation of free radicals increase with age. Even though sometimes free radicals are useful for our immune system to function properly, increased formation of the free radicals could lead to the increase in the symptoms of aging like formation of wrinkles etc by the damage they cause to the cellular proteins, lipids etc. Here is where the antioxidants come. As we have already discussed in the blog, antioxidants neutralize the free radicals. So, the more antioxidants we take, we can postpone the symptoms of ageing to some more years. So why not consciously take more fruits and vegetables to replenish our cells? Reference accessed on 17/2/2011

mridula jayaraman

Pharma Wings

SS Md Shafi's picture

Dear mridula.... great info.. .

shafi ..

Mridula jayaraman's picture

dear shafi thank you so much

mridula jayaraman

Pharma Wings

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