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June 21, 2003

Alternative Therapies and Explanations

Question from Buenos Aires, Argentina:

Should vitamin C (or any other anti-oxidant) be used to prevent circulation problems (arteries) in a nine year old who has had diabetes for three years?


Nobody knows the scientific answer to this question. We usually start adding antioxidants, multivitamins and multiminerals as well as a 81 mg aspirin tablet daily in the late teens or early 20 years. If there is also already retinopathy, microalbuminuria, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, then we would consider doing this earlier rather than later. However, there are no good data upon which to make such decisions. You should discuss this with your child’s diabetes team and find out their recommendation and rationale.

Additional comments from Dr. Donough O’Brien:

Reports on the potential benefits of anti-oxidants in preventing diabetes complications in man have been ambivalent both for individual anti-oxiidants singly or in combination. My personal judgement is that what is most important in preventing micro and macro vascular complications is the maintenance of the best possible degree of control. (See Hasanain B, Mooradian AD. Antioxidant vitamins and their influence in diabetes mellitus. Curr Diab Rep. 2002 Oct;2(5):448-56.) This is especially so because it is still early days for complications for your child.

Additional comments from Lois Schmidt Finney, diabetes dietitian:

I am glad you asked your question since I get many questions like this. No, taking extra doses of any vitamins or supplements has not been shown helpful in preventing coronary artery disease in a healthy population, whether they have diabetes or not. (If we found something that did work, we would make millions.) So we basically say to eat a healthy diet( low in fat, and having plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains), get plenty of exercise, and live life to its fullest, whether one has diabetes or not.