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Free Radicals, Antioxidants, Aging, and Disease.

Free Radicals, Antioxidants, Aging & Disease

By Joseph Knight, 391 pp, with illus, Washington, DC, AACC Press, 1999.

This book by Joseph Knight, Free Radicals, Antioxidants, Aging, & Disease, attempts to summarize what is a voluminous and sometimes confusing body of literature on this topic. The author has attempted to provide summary information on the role of free radicals in many biologic states, including aging, and many disease states, including inflammation and neoplasia. The information presented by the author is extensive and does serve as a source from which readers can gather information on the evidence for the influence of free radicals in aging and disease states. Some of the chapters on specific disease processes are quite helpful in bringing the reader up-to-date on the evidence for free radical involvement in the disease process.

One criticism of this book is that it is not tightly focused on free radicals, but instead tries to cover other theories about aging and disease. For example, the chapters dealing with aging cover several theories of aging, such as alterations in neuroendocrine and immune function and caloric restriction, in addition to the evidence linking free radicals to aging. In fact, the section on free radicals in aging is relatively brief. Another concern is that information is not necessarily presented where it should be. For example, in the section on intracellular antioxidants, glutathione peroxidase and catalase are described only briefly, whereas in the chapter on aging they are discussed in more detail. This scattering of information makes the book somewhat difficult to follow. For some areas, such as lung diseases, the review is incomplete in that large amounts of data on experimental models of lung injury and the role of oxidants are not covered. These studies would have been helpful to put the clinical observations that were cited into context. In fact, it would have been helpful if the author had separated out the clinical observations as compared to the experimental studies.

Finally, the book does not really provide a perspective on free radicals in the context of other mediators in disease states. For example, we know that oxidants appear to be involved in the generation of cytokines and proteinases in inflammation as well as having direct effects on cells, and it is their interaction with other inflammatory mediators that appears to be critical in many of these diseases. Also, while oxidants may play a direct role in many of these diseases, the evidence is mostly anecdotal and clinical trials with antioxidants usually have not been beneficial. Thus, some context in this regard would have been helpful.

In summary, this book is useful in providing a broad overview on free radicals in diseases and aging. For more detailed information on free radicals and their interactions with other etiologic agents in disease states, it would be desirable to focus on selective reviews in the scientific literature.
Ann Arbor, Mich

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Johnson, Kent J.
Publication:Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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