Dietary Antioxidant Vitamins and Flavonoids and Type 2 Diabetes: A Review of Current Epidemiologic Evidence

Xi Zhang, Lu Wang, Yiqing Song


Given the increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes, the identification of effective and safe preventive measures that offer even modest reductions in incidence could have a significant public health impact. One promising but as-yet unproven nutritional strategies for the prevention of diabetes or diabetic complications are dietary antioxidants. Several lines of evidence from laboratory research and observational studies has suggested increased oxidative damages on insulin resistance and pancreatic β-cell insulin secretion, indicating a role of oxidative stress in the etiology of type 2 diabetes. Ample non-human experimental evidence has demonstrated that dietary antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and flavonoids, protect against free radical-mediated damage by reducing free oxygen radicals and replenishing antioxidant reserves. While there is a longstanding interest in the diabetes community regarding the promising yet unproven role of antioxidants in the prevention of diabetes and diabetic complications, available human epidemiologic data provide equivocal information. Evidence from prospective cohort studies generally supports an inverse association between dietary, serum, or plasma levels of vitamins C and E and flavonoids and risk of type 2 diabetes. However, available data from randomized controlled trials did not seem to support the antioxidant hypothesis by showing the null effect of vitamins E and C and beta-carotene on type 2 diabetes among initially nondiabetic individuals. In this article, we review the available literature concerning the efficacy of antioxidants from diets or supplements in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. 


dietary antioxidants, vitamins, flavonoids, type 2 diabetes

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