The number of people suffering from diabetes (either type 1 or type 2) has reached epidemic proportions, with an estimated 400 million people affected worldwide. Despite several advances in the treatment of diabetes, a significant proportion of patients remain inadequately controlled. Diabetes that is left to progress unchecked can eventually cause blindness, circulatory problems, impotence, kidney failure, nerve damage, skin conditions, and poor oral health.
There is clearly a need for new types of interventions that target the complications of diabetes, urge Evans and Goldfine in an editorial published in the journal Diabetes. Emerging evidence suggests gasotransmitters (small molecules of naturally occurring gases such as carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide) are associated with many of the complications of diabetes. Gasotransmitters have a myriad of roles in the body including vasodilation (opening up of blood vessels), a reduction in oxidative stress via a direct interaction with free radicals, and an ability to up regulate our natural antioxidant supply.
In addition, Evans and Goldfine point out that high levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance also contribute to complications by elevating levels of free radicals, causing oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction. While numerous studies have already pointed out the benefits of antioxidants and other natural compounds such as polyphenolics at improving vascular function, the authors believe fast-tracked further research in this area is long overdue.
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