Increased oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of experimental diabetic neuropathy, but translational evidence in recent-onset diabetes is scarce. We aimed to determine whether markers of systemic oxidative stress are associated with diabetic sensorimotor polyneuropathy (DSPN) in recent-onset diabetes. In this cross-sectional study, we measured serum concentrations of extracellular superoxide dismutase (SOD3), thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS), and reduced glutathione (GSH) in 107 type 1 and 215 type 2 diabetes patients from the German Diabetes Study baseline cohort and 37 glucose-tolerant individuals (controls). DSPN was defined by electrophysiological and clinical criteria (Toronto Consensus, 2011). SOD3 and GSH concentrations were lower in individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes compared with concentrations in controls (P<0.0001). In contrast, the TBARS concentration was higher in participants with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes compared with levels in controls (P<0.0001). In addition, the SOD3 concentration was higher in participants with type 1 diabetes compared to concentrations in those with type 2 diabetes (P<0.0001). A low SOD3 concentration was associated with DSPN in individuals with type 1 diabetes (β=-0.306, P=0.002), type 2 diabetes (β=-0.164, P=0.017), and in both groups combined (β=-0.206, P=0.0003). Lower SOD3 concentrations were associated with decreased motor nerve conduction velocity (NCV) in men and, to a lesser degree, with reduced sensory NCV in women with diabetes. In conclusion, several biomarkers of oxidative stress are altered in recent-onset diabetes, with only a lower SOD3 concentration being linked to the presence of DSPN, suggesting a role for reduced extracellular antioxidative defense against superoxide in the early development of DSPN.