The reviewed literature indicates that, even in industrialised
countries, the nutrition of mature and aged subjects is often
inadequate (because of deficiency or excess), which may lead to
premature or pathological senescence.
Recent nutritional research on ageing laboratory animals shows that
dietary restriction may be the most effective procedure to achieve
along and disease-free life span, probably owing to a better
protection against mitochondria-linked oxygen stress. Likewise, the
experimental and clinical work from many laboratories, including our
own, indicates that age-dependent changes in the cardiovascular and
immune systems are linked to oxygen stress and that an adequate
intake of dietary antioxidants may protect those systems against
chronic degenerative syndromes in the physiopathology of which
reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a key role.
The extant data indicate that the antioxidant vitamins C and E are
centrally involved in defending the above two systems against ROS
attack. Moreover, recent research suggests that the
glutathione-related thiolic antioxidants, thiazolidine carboxylic
acid (thioproline) and N-acetylcysteine, as well as
the phenolic liposoluble ‘co-antioxidants’ of Curcuma longa, may
have a significant protective effect against age-related
atherogenesis and immune dysfunction.
Key messages from this paper are the following. (1) It is generally
accepted that oxygen free radicals released in metabolic reactions
play a key role in the physiopathology of ‘normal ageing’ and of
many age-related degenerative diseases. (2) Consumption of adequate
levels of antioxidants in the diet is essential in order to preserve
health in old age. (3) A certain degree of protection against
atherogenesis and immune dysfunction may be achieved by preventing
vitamin E deficiency and an excessive oxidation of the
glutathione-supported thiol pool.