Antioxidants in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.




Diabetes Care

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Antioxidant Nutrients Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
Professional Data: Antioxidant Nutrients Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2


Diabetes mellitus, a term that means "the running through of sugar," was first identified in the 1st century AD. The disease was described in old books as "the melting down of flesh into urine." Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition where there is less insulin than what the body needs. This can be low insulin, a problem with the release of insulin, insulin that cannot work in the cells that need it, or insulin that is inactivated before it is able to function. Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which the body does not produce or does not use insulin effectively. It is not simply hyperglycemia, or too much glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Ninety percent of individuals with diabetes have type 2. Most of these individuals are over 40 years old. One in five patients is over the age of 65, and 80 percent are overweight. Many patients have increased blood sugar seven to ten years before symptoms occur. When something is wrong with a person's blood sugar regulation even if insulin is being produced by their pancreas, the individual probably has type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 do not need to depend on insulin injections to survive. Type 2 diabetes is not fully understood. Three physical abnormalities usually occur in type 2: insulin resistance, increased glucose production in the liver, and poor beta cell function. These can occur individually or in combination.

A recent cohort study investigated the antioxidant intake of over 4,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 69 years. All participants were free from diabetes at the beginning of this study. Dietary data was recorded and the researchers calculated the intake of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and various carotenoids. After a 23-year follow up, there were a total of 383 cases of type 2 diabetes. After analyzing these results, it was shown that a higher intake of vitamin E was associated with a lower risk of diabetes. Although the link was smaller, intakes of other antioxidants were shown to lower the risk as well. There was no association between vitamin C and diabetes. The authors concluded that an intake of antioxidants may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.1


1. Montonen, J, et al. Dietary Antioxidant Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2004;27:362-6.