Antioxidants in the treatment of diabetes

Curr Diabetes Rev. 2011 Mar;7(2):106-25. doi: 10.2174/157339911794940729.


Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that continues to present as a major health problem worldwide. It is characterized by absolute or relative deficiencies in insulin secretion and/or insulin action and is associated with chronic hyperglycemia and disturbances of carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism. Many studies suggest a central role for oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of this multi-faceted metabolic disorder. This has prompted investigations in the use of antioxidants as a complementary therapeutic approach. In this review we briefly summarize oxidative mechanisms implicated in diabetic complications and then focus on the findings resulting from human clinical trials where antioxidants were studied as an adjuvant to standard diabetes treatment during the last ten years. A literature search using PubMed (last ten years) was performed using the following terms: vitamin E, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, L-carnitine, ruboxistaurin or LY 333531 and diabetes. This search was limited to human clinical trials. We concluded there is not any established benefit for antioxidants use in the management of diabetic complications. Therefore, routine vitamin or mineral supplementation is not generally recommended.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / adverse effects
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Carnitine / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diabetes Complications / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indoles / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Maleimides / therapeutic use
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Thioctic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ubiquinone / analogs & derivatives
  • Ubiquinone / therapeutic use
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Antioxidants
  • Indoles
  • Maleimides
  • Vitamins
  • Ubiquinone
  • ruboxistaurin
  • Thioctic Acid
  • coenzyme Q10
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Carnitine