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July 28, 2002

Alternative Therapies and Explanations

Question from Santa Rosa, California, USA:

What can you tell me about lipid peroxidation and type 1 diabetes? Antioxidant levels? I'm interested in melatonin, alpha lipoic acid, copper (involved with SOD), and glutathione. Does lipid peroxidation affect glycosylation?


This is a complicated biochemistry topic. I can give you a simplified version that has a diabetes slant.

Peroxides are highly reactive compounds that react with other compounds. When they interact in the cells and extracellular spaces of the body, they can increase the stress on cells by interfering with basic energy-producing functions, change the function of important signal proteins, and compromise basic function. Lipid peroxidation has been hypothesized to be a cause for beta cell dysfunction, neuropathy, and damage to blood vessels all over the body that could lead to atherosclerosis and small blood vessel dysfunction in the eyes and kidneys.

At the root of the hypothesis is that elevated glucose levels and the accompanying rise in lipids trigger these abnormalities that then lead to all the target organ abnormalities. Medications known to be antioxidants have been thought to be appropriate therapies, one of which is lipoic acid. Glutathione is the natural scavenger of oxidized compounds in the body. Copper has been a compound used to induce these changes in the test tube so that the process can be studied in the laboratory. I am not sure about the data involving melatonin and its role as an antioxidant.