Food and Behaviour Research

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Role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in neurodegenerative diseases.

Rao AV, Balachandran B. (2002) Nutr Neurosci.  5(5) 291-309 

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  Neurodegenerative diseases (NDD) are a group of illness with diverse clinical importance and etiologies. NDD include motor neuron disease such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cerebellar disorders, Parkinson's disease (PD), Huntington's disease (HD), cortical destructive Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Schizophrenia. Numerous epidemiological and experimental studies provide many risk factors such as advanced age, genetic defects, abnormalities of antioxidant enzymes, excitotoxicity, cytoskeletal abnormalities, autoimmunity, mineral deficiencies, oxidative stress, metabolic toxicity, hypertension and other vascular disorders. Growing body of evidence implicates free radical toxicity, radical induced mutations and oxidative enzyme impairment and mitochondrial dysfunction due to congenital genetic defects in clinical manifestations of NDD. Accumulation of oxidative damage in neurons either primarily or secondarily may account for the increased incidence of NDD such as AD, ALS and stroke in aged populations. The molecular mechanisms of neuronal degeneration remain largely unknown and effective therapies are not currently available. Recent interest has focused on antioxidants such as carotenoids and in particular lycopene, a potent antioxidant in tomatoes and tomato products, flavonoids and vitamins as potentially useful agents in the management of human NDD. The pathobiology of neurodegenerative disorders with emphasis on genetic origin and its correlation with oxidative stress of neurodegenerative disorders will be reviewed and the reasons as to why brain constitutes a vulnerable site of oxidative damage will be discussed. The article will also discuss the potential free radical scavenger, mechanism of antioxidant action of lycopene and the need for the use of antioxidants in the prevention of NDD.