Free radicals the "sparks" that are set off in your body when oxygen burns off food and foreign chemicals look like being the cause of diabetes.
This is the theoretical conclusion of Finnish researchers who have discovered that diabetics are low in vitamin E, one of the antioxidants known as a "free radical scavenger".
Without sufficient levels of the vitamin, the free radicals are able to damage cell membranes and tissue.
Although free radicals are a natural, and unwanted, process in the body, their presence can be increased through diet, such as the eating of high fat foods and fries.
The Finnish research team discovered that diabetics tended to be fat, and their diets were low in vitamin E. Only 12 of the 1,000 men studied reported using any vitamin E product or supplement.
The researchers believe that the link between free radical stress and non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus is so strong as to be "remarkable, and militates against a chance finding".
A smaller trial that the researchers carried out discovered that 15 diabetics given 900 mg of vitamin E a day reported improved insulin action over a four-month period.
The researchers, from the University of Kuopio, suggest that a diet high in vitamin E and in supplements could be used in primary care of diabetics (BMJ, October 28, 1995).