Purpose of review: In diabetes, oxidative stress plays a key role in the pathogenesis of vascular complications; therefore an antioxidant therapy would be of great interest in this disease.
Recent findings: Hyperglycemia directly promotes an endothelial dysfunction--inducing process of overproduction of superoxide at the mitochondrial level. This is the first and key event able to activate all the pathways involved in the development of vascular complications of diabetes. It has recently been shown that statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II type 1 blockers, calcium channel blockers, and thiazolidinediones have a strong intracellular antioxidant activity.
Summary: Classic antioxidants, such as vitamin E, failed to show beneficial effects on diabetic complications probably because their action is only "symptomatic". The preventive activity against hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress shown by statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II type 1 blockers, calcium channel blockers, and thiazolidinediones justifies use of these compounds for preventing complications in patients with diabetes, in whom antioxidant defences have been shown to be defective.