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Vitamin C to Prevent Diabetes Damage?

Diane Fennell

June 26, 2009

A combination of insulin and vitamin C may help stop diabetes-induced blood vessel damage in people with poor blood glucose control, according to new research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Halting this damage could help prevent a host of complications, such as chronic heart failure, kidney disease, and eye disease.

The investigators looked at 10 people without diabetes and three subgroups of 10 people with Type 1 diabetes who had either been diagnosed within the month or who had been managing their diabetes for roughly five years. Those who had been diagnosed five years earlier were further categorized based on whether their average HbA1c level had been less than or equal to 7% since diagnosis or more than 7% since diagnosis.

Each of the study participants was treated with a combination of insulin and vitamin C in various combinations over the course of 24 hours. In the people who’d had diabetes for roughly five years and an average HbA1c of more than 7%, neither the insulin nor the vitamin C alone had an impact on blood vessel damage. The combination, however, was effective at stopping the damage.

In an earlier study, principal investigator Michael Ihnat, PhD, discovered that cells have a “memory” that allows damage to continue to occur even when blood glucose levels have been brought within target range. The presence of antioxidants such as vitamin C, however, erases this memory and allows cell function to return to normal.

According to Ihnat, “For patients with diabetes, this means simply getting their glucose under control isn’t enough. An antioxidant-based therapy combined with glucose control will give patients more of an advantage and lessen the chance of complications with diabetes.”

While the researchers recommend that people with diabetes eat foods and take multivitamins rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, they warn that further investigation is needed: Because the vitamin C used in the study was administered at very high doses and directly into the bloodstream, it is unlikely that a person could derive the same benefits from a store-bought supplement. A study is currently under way to investigate the effect of vitamin C and insulin in people with Type 2 diabetes.

To learn more, see the study’s abstract, or read “Stopping Diabetes Damage With Vitamin C.”

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