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A safer antioxidant?

11:24am, February 25, 2003

Numerous diseases and complications associated with aging trace to damage from so-called free radicals that form naturally in the body and are chemically reactive. Many people attempt to cope by self-medicating with natural antioxidants, including vitamins C, E, and the polyphenols found in plant-derived foods and drinks. There's a problem with that: Taken in excess, most antioxidants start to foster the damage they were meant to prevent. That's why a new Japanese synthetic antioxidant looks so intriguing.

Kiyoshi Fukuhara of the National Institute of Health Sciences in Tokyo and his coworkers developed what they describe as a chemical analog of catechin, which is among the more potent antioxidants in tea, chocolate, and many fruits. Catechin molecules ordinarily have two structural elements that bend around a pivot point. The result is that each element lies in a separate plane. In their new synthetic version, the Japanese scientists have locked both of catechin's structural

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