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Lipid peroxidation and derived oxidized products are being intensively investigated, because of their potential to cause injury and their pathogenetic role in several clinically significant diseases. The view that an excess of lipid peroxidation products is present and relevant in the pathogenesis of human essential hypertension or in hypertension-induced damage has still not received definitive support.To evaluate both the extent of lipoperoxidation in essential hypertensive patients and the status of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants that potentially are able to modulate it.We selected 105 newly diagnosed essential hypertensives among those referred to our hypertension outpatient clinic and compared them with 100 normotensive controls matched for age. Plasma malondialdehyde was measured by high-performance liquid chromatography after reaction with thiobarbituric acid, as an end product of lipid peroxidation; serum selenium (Se), plasma copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn), vitamins A and E, erythrocyte superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase levels were evaluated as indices of oxidant balance. Differences between the groups were tested by Student's t test and χ2 test.Compared with controls, essential hypertension patients had higher malondialdehyde and glutathione peroxidase activities (P < 0.05 for both) and Zn concentrations (P < 0.001) and lower superoxide dismutase activities (P < 0.005), vitamin A (P < 0.05) and E (P < 0.001) levels and Cu concentrations (P < 0.005). We found no difference between Se levels of essential hypertensive and control subjects.Essential hypertension is associated with greater than normal lipoperoxidation and an imbalance in anti-oxidant status, suggesting that oxidative stress is important in the pathogenesis of essential hypertension or in arterial damage related to essential hypertension.