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antioxidants, clinical trials, diabetes, oxidative stress, pro-oxidants, vitamins



  1. Penckofer, Sue PhD, RN
  2. Schwertz, Dorie PhD, RN, FAAN
  3. Florczak, Kristine MSN, RN, CCRN


Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radical production and antioxidant capacity. This may be due to increased free radical formation in the body and/or loss of normal antioxidant defenses. Oxidative stress has been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. The role of antioxidants in the primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease is currently under study. Although epidemiologic evidence indicates that antioxidants may decrease cardiovascular risk, clinical trial data are not conclusive. Information regarding the use and benefits of antioxidants in persons with diabetes is limited. Persons with diabetes may be more prone to oxidative stress because hyperglycemia depletes natural antioxidants and facilitates the production of free radicals. In addition, other factors such as homocysteine, insulin resistance, and aging may be contributory. This article highlights landmark clinical trials that have examined the cardioprotective effect of antioxidants. Because these trials have not been designed to study persons with diabetes, and clinical trial data for this group are not available, correlational studies are also presented. Finally, the concept of oxidative stress, the antioxidant and pro-oxidant factors that may contribute to oxidative stress, and the consequences of oxidative stress in persons with type 2 diabetes are presented.