Antioxidant Nutrients and Type 2 Diabetes

Use of Antioxidant Nutrients in the Prevention and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes

Rodney C. Ruhe, PhD, and Roger B. McDonald, PhD

Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, California []

Type 2 diabetes, or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), is increasingly common throughout the world. The World Health Organization has predicted that between 1997 and 2025, the number of diabetics will double from 143 million to about 300 million. The incidence of NIDDM is highest in economically developed nations, particularly the U. S., where approximately 6.5% of the population (17 million people) have either diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. The two most important factors contributing to the development of NIDDM are obesity and physical inactivity. The leading cause of mortality and morbidity in people with NIDDM is cardiovascular disease caused by macro- and microvascular degeneration. Current therapies for NIDDM focus primarily on weight reduction. Indeed, several investigations indicate that 65 to 75% of cases of diabetes in Caucasians could be avoided if individuals in this subgroup did not exceed their ideal weight. The success of this approach has been, at best, modest. An alternate approach to the control of Type 2 diabetes is to arrest the progress of the pathology until a cure has been found. To this end, some investigators suggest that dietary antioxidants may be of value. Several studies in humans and laboratory animals with NIDDM indicate that vitamin E and lipoic acid supplements lessen the impact of oxidative damage caused by dysregulation of glucose metabolism. In this brief review, we discuss the incidence, etiology, and current therapies for NIDDM and further explore the usefulness of dietary antioxidants in treating this disorder.

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