Standard Article

Lipid Oxidation: Theoretical Aspects

  1. K. M. Schaich

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047167849X.bio067

Bailey's Industrial Oil and Fat Products

Bailey's Industrial Oil and Fat Products

How to Cite

Schaich, K. M. 2005. Lipid Oxidation: Theoretical Aspects. Bailey's Industrial Oil and Fat Products. 1:7.

Author Information

  1. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Lipid oxidation has long been accepted as a classic free radical chain reaction mechanism with initiation, propagation, and termination stages. This view is not inaccurate, but it is incomplete. Initiation is generally treated as if it was spontaneous or random, but in reality, radical initiation is quite specific and varies with the source. Similarly, propagation is considered to involve only hydrogen abstraction where as internal cyclization, addition, scission, and disproportionation reactions are competitive or even dominant under some conditions, leading to variations in oxidation kinetics and, in particular, product mixes. Alternative reaction paths have been recognized for some time, but remain largely ignored in measurements of lipid oxidation. This chapter reviews initiation processes with a focus on differentiating rates, mechanisms, and specificity of radical formation; and it presents evidence for multiple propagation mechanisms that lead to different product mixes. Finally, a new integrated view of lipid oxidation is proposed to account for multiple propagation pathways. Practical application of this information should enable development of analyses that more accurately reflect the true extent of lipid oxidation and also antioxidant approaches that more effectively extend shelf life and preserve desirable food qualities.


  • lipid oxidation;
  • initiation;
  • propagation;
  • termination;
  • hydrogen abstraction;
  • cyclization reactions;
  • addition reactions;
  • scission reactions;
  • oxidation products