Effects of antioxidants on hyperglycemia-induced alterations of retinal metabolism were evaluated in rats diabetic or experimentally galactosemic for 2 months. Oxidative stress was estimated by measuring lipid peroxides (measured as thiobarbituric acid reactive substances [TEARS]) in retina and plasma. Erythrocyte osmotic fragility, another measure of oxidative stress, also was determined in the same groups of rats. In diabetic rats, TBARS were elevated by 74% in retina and 87% in plasma. In galactose-fed rats, TBARS were significantly elevated in retina (P < 0.05), but were normal in plasma. The administration of supplemental dietary ascorbic acid and α-tocopherol acetate for 2 months prevented the elevation of retinal TBARS and the decrease of Na+-K+- ATPase and calcium ATPase activities in retinas of diabetic animals without having any beneficial effect on plasma TBARS. In galactosemic rats, these antioxidants had a partial beneficial effect on the activity of retinal Na+-K+-ATPase, but failed to have any effect on calcium ATPase. The beneficial effects of antioxidants in diabetes and experimental galactosemia were not caused by the amelioration of hyperglycemia or retinal polyol accumulation. Erythrocyte osmotic fragility was increased by more than twofold in diabetes, but was normal in experimental galactosemia, and antioxidants prevented diabetes- induced increases in erythrocyte osmotic fragility. Diabetes-induced increased oxidative stress and subnormal ATPase activities in the retina can be inhibited by dietary supplementation with antioxidants.

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