Effect of Cigarette Smoking on the Oxidant/Antioxidant Balance in Healthy Subjects

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Background and Purpose:

Cigarette smoking has been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Even though the molecular mechanism(s) are not clear, the pathology has been related to oxygen free radicals present in cigarette smoke. Thus, the main objective of this study was to establish the changes in the oxidation/antioxidation balance induced by cigarette smoking.


Thirty healthy subjects (15 smokers and 15 nonsmokers) of both sexes were studied. The smokers group had smoked a mean of 14 cigarettes per day for an average of 4.5 years. Fasting serum levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a marker of oxidative stress, nitric oxide (NO), reduced glutathione (GSH), and vitamin C (ascorbic and dehydroascorbic acids) were measured.


Fasting NO concentration was significantly higher in smokers (51.3 ± 5.3 μM) than in nonsmokers (35.2 ± 4.8 μM, P < 0.05). The smokers had significantly higher serum dehydroascorbic acid levels (2.4 ± 0.5 mg/dL, P < 0.03) than the nonsmokers (1.08 ± 0.08 mg/dL). No significant differences were observed in the levels of ascorbic acid, MDA, and GSH between the smokers and nonsmokers.


Our results suggest that exposure to cigarette smoke increases NO synthesis, such that NO may act in a compensatory way as an inhibitor of lipid peroxidation. Smoking also activates other antioxidative mechanisms such as involving vitamin C. These protective mechanisms appear to be enough in preventing accumulation of oxidative products such as MDA and avoiding oxidative damage.

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