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Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances - TBARS - are formed as a byproduct of the oxidation of fat cells i.e. lipid peroxidation and can be detected by a TBA test or TBARS assay.[1] Results from TBARS tests are used extensively in health sciences research as a biomarker for oxidative stress because they indicate the presence of malondialdehyde (MDA), a compound that creates TBARS in the body during lipid oxidation.

In all mammals, oxidative stress is the result of reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free radicals.[2] Because reactive oxygen species (ROS) have extremely short half-lives, they are difficult to measure directly. Instead, what are most often measured are several products of the damage produced by oxidative stress (e.g. TBARS).[3]

Free radical activity and its inverse, anti-oxidant activity, is shown in the clinical data to be a determining factor in the expression of many major diseases including cancer,[4] cardiovascular disease,[5] diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease,[6] and psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, dementia and depression.[7] For this reason, reducing oxidative stress by increasing anti-oxidant activity in the body serves as an effective way to reduce free radical activity and theoretically prevent disease and the effects of cellular aging. As a result, TBARS levels and anti-oxidants have become a significant interest in the medical, wellness and anti-aging industries. Another method of determining the oxidative stress in mammals is to measure the presence of certain endogenous anti-oxidant enzymes including, superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione.

TBARS results have been empirically validated to positively correlate with the presence of MDA and are commonly used in research because obtaining a more exact value of MDA is time consuming and expensive in comparison.[8] However TBARS tests measure not only MDA from lipid peroxidation but MDA generated from lipid hydroperoxides by the hydrolytic conditions of the reaction and for this reason may provide an overestimation of true MDA levels.[9] Additionally, MDA is only one of several products formed via the decomposition of lipid peroxidation products and MDA is neither the sole end product of fatty peroxide formation and decomposition, nor a substance generated exclusively through lipid peroxidation. For this reason TBARS are a clinically viable, but not perfect test for levels of MDA, and are more accurately considered a test for oxidative stress rather than a test for MDA levels. Research shows that more precise measures of MDA, can be obtained by the use of chromatographic assays,[10] however the viability in using such assays in a widespread manner or in population based studies, remains to be seen.


  1. ^ "TBARS Assay MDA (Malondialdehyde) Assays and Reagents". http://www.cellbiolabs.com. Cell Biolabs, Inc. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ Armstrong, Donald; Browne, Richard (1994). "The Analysis of Free Radicals, Lipid Peroxides, Antioxidant Enzymes and Compounds Related to Oxidative Stress as Applied to the Clinical Chemistry Laboratory". Free Radicals in Diagnostic Medicine Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 366: 43–58. 
  3. ^ Pryor, William (1991). "The antioxidant nutrients and disease prevention— what, do we know and what, do we need to find out?". Am J Clin Nulr 53 (1 Suppl): 391S–393S. PMID 1985418. 
  4. ^ Linhart, Kirsten; Bartsch, Helmut; Seitz, Helmut K. (2014). "The role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cytochrome P-450 2E1 in the generation of carcinogenic etheno-DNA adducts". Redox Biology 3: 56–62. 
  5. ^ Adly, Amira A.M. (2010). "Oxidative stress and disease: an updated review.". Research Journal of Immunology 3: 129–145. doi:10.3923/rji.2010.129.145. 
  6. ^ Adly, Amira A.M. (2010). "Oxidative stress and disease: an updated review.". Research Journal of Immunology 3: 129–145. doi:10.3923/rji.2010.129.145. 
  7. ^ Tsaluchidu, Sofia; Massimo, Cocchi; Lucio, Tonello; Puri, Basant K (2008). "Fatty acids and oxidative stre ss in psychiatric disorders". BMC Psychiatry. 8 (Suppl 1) (S5). doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-S1-S5. 
  8. ^ Kil, HN; Eom, SY; Park, JD; Kawamoto, T; Kim, YD; Kim, H (Mar 2014). "A rapid method for estimating the levels of urinary thiobarbituric Acid reactive substances for environmental epidemiologic survey.". Toxological Research 30( (1): 7–11. 
  9. ^ "Correlates of Markers of Oxidative Status in the General Population". Am. J. Epidemiol. 2001. doi:10.1093/aje/154.4.348. 
  10. ^ Moselhy, Hamdy F.; Reid, Raymond G.; Yousef, Saeed; Boyle, Susanne P. (2013). "A specific, accurate, and sensitive measure of total plasma malondialdehyde by HPLC". The Journal of Lipid Research 54 (3): 852–858. doi:10.1194/jlr.D032698.