Review of the antioxidant potential of flavonoids as a subgroup of polyphenols and partial substitute for synthetic antioxidants

Document Type : Review Article


1 Department of Nuclear Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Ahvaz, Iran



Objective: This review describes the antioxidant activity of flavonoids as a subgroup of polyphenols and a partial or entire substitute for synthetic antioxidants.
Materials and Methods: All relevant databases were searched using the terms “Phytochemical”, “Polyphenol”, and “Flavonoid”.
Results: The oxidative reaction caused by free radicals is a reason for food spoilage, which causes unpleasant odor, loss of taste, and damaged tissues. The common antioxidants employed in foods include butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydroxytoluene, propyl gallate, and tert-butyl hydroquinone. Despite their high efficiency and potency, synthetic antioxidants have adverse effects on the human body, such as causing mutation and carcinogenicity. A whole and a group of them known as polyphenols possess high antioxidant activity. These compounds are potential antioxidants due to their capabilities such as scavenging free radicals, donating hydrogen atoms, and chelating metal cations. The antioxidant mechanism of action of flavonoids is transferring hydrogen atom to free radicals. Accordingly, the more the flavonoid structure makes the hydrogen transfer faster and easier, the more the flavonoid’s antioxidant power will be. Therefore, the antioxidant activity of the flavonoids with hydroxyl groups in their structure is the highest among different flavonoids.
Conclusion: In addition to health promotion and some disease prevention effects, various in vitro investigations have indicated that flavonoids possess high antioxidant activity that is comparable with synthetic antioxidants. However, to be commercially available, these compounds should be extracted from a low-price source with a high-performance method.