Reactive free radical species (R.) are associated with several forms of tissue damage and disease, and also with the process of aging. Protection is thought to be available in the form of endogenous compounds that react with and thereby 'scavenge' the R.. Because many R. are reactive forms of oxygen, an effective scavenger is often referred to as an antioxidant. To be an effective antioxidant physiologically, a substance must have certain chemical and biological properties: it must be present in adequate amounts in the body; it must react with a variety of R.; it must be suitable for compartmentation; it must be readily available; it might be suitable for regeneration; it must be conserved by the kidneys; and it must have tolerable toxicity. Several water-soluble candidates are mentioned, with most having no more than one or two of the attributes listed. Ascorbic acid is discussed in detail, and an analysis is made of whether it has the properties mentioned.
- free radical