1. Oxidative stress is recognized as a major contributing factor for the development of late complications of diabetes. 2. Tea contains polyphenolic compounds (catechins), which have many important biological properties, including strong anti-oxidant activity. 3. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of tea catechins (epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epicatechin (EC)) on markers of oxidative stress (malondialdehyde (MDA), reduced glutathione (GSH) and membrane -SH group) in erythrocytes from type 2 diabetics. 4. Oxidative stress was induced in normal and type 2 diabetic erythrocytes by incubating with tert-butyl hydroperoxide (t-BHP). 5. Diabetic erythrocytes have higher MDA and decreased GSH and membrane -SH groups compared with normal erythrocytes. 6. Our results show that tea catechins protect erythrocytes from t-BHP-induced oxidative stress, the effect being more pronounced in diabetic erythrocytes. The relative effectiveness of individual catechins are in the order of EGCG>ECG>EGC>EC. 7. We hypothesise that a higher intake of catechin-rich food by diabetic patients may provide some protection against the development of long-term complications of diabetes.