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Antioxidants and Diabetes ~ [Issue 0200-3]  Wellness Weekly
 Feb 16, 2000 15:11 PST 
Antioxidants and Diabetes

According to a report published in the American Journal of
Epidemiology, blood levels of two important antioxidants were found
to be lowest in individuals newly diagnosed with diabetes. At issue
were levels of the two carotene-group antioxidants, beta-carotene and


Carotenes are a group of non-toxic, naturally occurring antioxidant
precursors to vitamin A. Derived from plants, the group includes
alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, along with lycopene, lutein,
cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin. These oil-soluble antioxidants are
important to the body in general. They are also well known for their
ability to provide antioxidant protection to our eyes. Individual
solubility preferences are important in determining both the specific
kinds of tissues where the individual antioxidant will accumulate and
where it will be most beneficial. Differences in solubility
underscore the importance for the body of having a variety of antioxidants.

Carotenoid Antioxidants and Diabetes

Certain of these carotenoids, it has been found, may provide
protection against development of diabetes. This is according to data
from the 1988-1994 NHANES III Study, The Third National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. The American Journal of Epidemiology
report, based on some of the study results and covering blood level
studies in approximately 1700 participants, showed, for example, the
two carotenoids beta-carotene and lycopene to be lowest in
individuals newly diagnosed with diabetes. Men with impaired glucose
tolerance were also low in these two carotenoids. Cryptoxanthin, too,
was lower for the same group. Other studies suggest oil-soluble
antioxidants may mitigate lipid peroxidation, slowing a process which
may contribute to the development of complications leading to
diabetes. In one study of animals with experimental diabetes,
beta-carotene was capable of preventing up to 98% of the adverse
neurovascular changes marking the disease's progression.

Antioxidants and Degenerative Diseases

Some researchers note the accumulation of evidence indicating the
onset or progression of numerous degenerative diseases, ranging from
atherosclerosis, to cancer, to dementia, eye disease, joint disease
and diabetes, may be related to harmful free radical mechanisms. One
investigator opines that humans may not be all that well adapted to
survival past middle age and that dietary supplementation with
antioxidants may play a role in ensuring a greater degree of health
with aging. Dr. Carl Kupfer, Director of the National Eye Institute,
in testimony regarding the current Health and Human Services budget,
noted that diabetics may have special concern regarding the tissues
and function of their eyes. Nearly half, he noted, develop diabetic
retinopathy to some degree and up to 25,000 suffer complications
leading to blindness from diabetes each year. Approximately 16
million individuals in the United States currently have diabetes and
costs associated with the disease were recently estimated in the
vicinity of $92 billion.
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