Effects of hyperglycemia (both diabetes and experimental galactosemia) on cardiac metabolism have been determined. In addition, the effect of supplemental antioxidants on these hyperglycemia-induced abnormalities of cardiac metabolism has been investigated. Diabetes or experimental galactosemia of 2 months duration in rats significantly increased oxidative stress in myocardium, as demonstrated by elevation of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and lipid fluorescent products in left ventricle. Activity of protein kinase C (PKC) was elevated in the myocardium, and the activities of (Na,K)-ATPase and calcium ATPases were subnormal. Administration of supplemental antioxidants containing a mixture of ascorbic acid, Trolox; alpha-tocopherol acetate, N-acetyl cysteine, beta-carotene, and selenium prevented both the diabetes-induced and galactosemia-induced elevation of oxidative stress and PKC activity, and inhibited the decreases of myocardial (Na,K)-ATPase and calcium ATPases. The results show that these metabolic abnormalities are not unique to diabetes per se, but are secondary to elevated blood hexose levels, and supplemental antioxidants inhibit these metabolic abnormalities. Our findings suggest that antioxidants inhibit abnormal metabolic processes that may contribute to the development of cardiac disease in diabetes, and offer a potential clinical means to inhibit cardiac abnormalities in diabetes.