Can Taking Antioxidants Actually Prevent Diabetes in Overweight and Obese People?

Study Suggests Antioxidants Could Prevent Diabetes

A new study suggests that taking antioxidants could be an important life-saving measure toward preventing diabetes in overweight and obese people.


According to the latest numbers, about half of all Americans have either diabetes or pre-diabetes, most of which is attributed to being overweight or obese. While health experts tell patients that their obesity will likely lead to the eventual development of diabetes, the mechanism by which being fat causes or leads to insulin resistance is not well understood.

In fact, a new study recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine attempted to pinpoint exactly when signs of prediabetes first appear when a person is overweight or obese and on the cusp of metabolic syndrome. In the study, a small group of overweight and obese men were kept inactive in a hospital ward for one week during which they were instructed to literally gorge themselves on food that amounted to a calorie count of about 6,000 calories per day.

What the researchers found was that not only did the study participants gain nearly 8 pounds of body fat each, but that only into the second day of their feeding frenzy did signs of insulin resistance became apparent as an important insulin-facilitated glucose transporter called GLUT4, became inactivated; and, 38 proteins that are biomarkers of oxidative stress were found in samples of the men's fat and urine.

According to a news report about the study published in the Los Angeles Times:

“Had they continued this pattern of "chronic overnutrition," the men in this experiment might well have gotten on the fast track to developing Type 2 diabetes. As the system that transports sugars into the muscles and organs slows, two things happen: High concentrations of glucose remain at large in the blood, causing damage to blood vessels and nerves; and, in a bid to get fuel to muscles and organs, special cells in the pancreas begin working overtime to produce extra insulin, exhausting themselves in the process.”

The significance of their findings is that it supports the notion that oxidative stress may have more to do with developing diabetes than overall inflammation within the body that has been generally attributed to such things as carrying around a significant amount of belly fat around the abdominal organs.


"We ... believe that oxidative stress likely preceded the development of insulin resistance, and that oxidative stress, not inflammatory or [endoplasmic reticulum] stress, was the initial event that occurred after overnutrition," the authors concluded.

The study also suggests that taking antioxidants might counter the oxidative stress from overeating and therefore could help protect the overweight and obese from developing diabetes―a hypothesis that is not without previous study support.

In an animal study published in 2003 in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that feeding mice a supplement of the anthocyanin antioxidant cyanidin 3-glucoside (C3G) from purple corn found in maize actually prevented obesity and diabetes in mice that were on a high fat diet. In comparison, control mice on a high fat diet without the C3G supplement became obese and developed diabetes.

For more about the potential relationship between antioxidants and warding off diabetes, here is an informative article about a new fat-busting antioxidant supplement on The Dr. Oz Show that allows a high fat diet.


Excessive caloric intake acutely causes oxidative stress, GLUT4 carbonylation, and insulin resistance in healthy men” Science Translational Medicine 09 Sep 2015, Vol. 7, Issue 304, pp. 304re7; Guenther Boden et al.

The Los Angeles Times “Research offers promise for breaking the link between obesity and insulin resistance” Sept. 9, 2015.

Dietary cyanidin 3-O-beta-D-glucoside-rich purple corn color prevents obesity and ameliorates hyperglycemia in mice” Journal of Nutrition (2003) July, 133(7):2125-30; Tsuda, T et al.


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