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Do antioxidants from vitamin supplements help with diabetes?

A newly published study demonstrates the effects of antioxidants from vitamin supplements including vitamin E in patients with type 2 diabetes.

The food we eat contain nutrients including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Of these nutrients, glucose is essential for body cells to utilise for the production of energy. It is especially crucial for the brain and the red blood cells that are unable to use any other nutrient source as a storehouse of energy. The mechanism by which our body cells convert glucose to energy is highly dependent on the hormone insulin, which drives the glucose into the cell. Without insulin, glucose uptake to the cells in restricted, preventing its use as an energy source and increasing the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. The breakdown of this mechanism is what leads to diabetes.

Individuals may develop type 2 diabetes due to poor lifestyle choices. It often occurs after the age of 40 years. Those with type 2 diabetes have a reduced response to the action of the hormone insulin, rendering it ineffective for glucose uptake. The amount of glucose present in the bloodstream might be so high that it could result in vascular complications. A glycosylated haemoglobin blood test can be done to identify if a person is susceptible to those complications. With proper treatment and an active lifestyle change, an individual can reverse some of the harmful effects and cause of type 2 diabetes.

With this background, researchers Maria E. Balbi and colleagues sought to determine if the use of antioxidants from vitamin supplements had a beneficial effect on the dietary management of type 2 diabetes. For their study, they did a systematic review of the available research with a meta-analysis of the combined data. The sources for their data were PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science. Thirty trials that were published before December 2017 were taken into consideration for this experiment. The results were recently published in the journal Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome.

The study evaluated the effects of vitamins B, C, D and E. The primary outcome that the researchers sought was the ability of the vitamin supplements to reduce oxidative stress and increase antioxidant levels within the body. The increase in antioxidant potential was measured by observing biochemical reactions, such as the reduction of malondialdehyde (MDA) within the body, as well as an increase of glutathione peroxidase (GPx). The researchers also noted any differences seen in the total antioxidant capacity and made sure to detect any enhancement of the superoxide dismutase enzyme (SOD). Also, they inspected increases in thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS). The aftermath that the researchers aimed to acquire was a steady level of the glycaemic index within the patient.

The results of this experiment revealed that out of all of the vitamins, vitamin E intake showed a significant reduction in blood glucose and the control of glycaemic index in individuals. In addition to vitamin E, vitamin C also showed promise in reducing MDA and TBARS along with increasing the levels of GPx, SOD, and total antioxidant capacity.

The study concluded that vitamin E may be a beneficial vitamin to consider for improved outcomes in type 2 diabetes, as it may provide important antioxidant activity and prevent diabetes complications. Further research in this area can be beneficial to explore other advantages of antioxidants from increased intake of vitamin supplements.

Written by Dr. Apollina Sharma, MBBS, GradDip EXMD

Reference: Balbi, M. E., Tonin, F. S., Mendes, A. M., Borba, H. H., Wiens, A., Fernandez-Llimos, F., & Pontarolo, R. (2018). Antioxidant effects of vitamins in type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Diabetology & metabolic syndrome, 10(1), 18.



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