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October 8, 2009

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Study casts doubts on antioxidants

INSTEAD of protecting against diabetes, antioxidants -- compounds in foods and supplements that prevent cell damage -- may actually raise the chances of getting diabetes, at least in the early stages, Australian researchers said.

"In the case of early type 2 diabetes ... our studies suggest that antioxidants would be bad for you," Tony Tiganis of Monash University in Australia, whose study appears in the journal Cell Metabolism, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Antioxidants are protective proteins that can prevent cell damage caused by charged particles known as reactive oxygen species. This oxidative stress is thought to add to the progression of several diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Because antioxidants fight oxidative stress, they have become a popular food supplement.

Tiganis' team studied the effects of oxidative stress in mice fed a high-fat diet for 12 weeks. One group of mice lacked the Gpxl enzyme, which helps counter oxidative stress. They found mice that lacked the enzyme were less likely to develop insulin resistance -- an early sign of diabetes -- than normal mice. But when they treated the enzyme-deficient mice with an antioxidant, "they lost this advantage and become more 'diabetic,'" Tiganis said.


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