Excess sugar in the bloodstream can have very serious side effects. The extra sugar impedes blood flow, causing wounds to heal more slowly and infections to become more virulent. Just how this excess sugar causes damage remains a topic of debate. One plausible mechanism was suggested in Time by Dr. Michael Brownlee of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City (November 26, 1990, p. 52-59).
Glucose is known to be chemically active and can form a temporary bond with many proteins, including hemoglobin. Over time, some of these proteins become permanently attached to the glucose and these sticky fragments aggregate to form what Brownlee calls "biological superglue". Brownlee suggests that this superglue is a "source of constant irritation" that acts like a splinter. The body reacts by thickening the walls of capillaries and arteries which constricts blood flow even more.
People with diabetes also have more oxygen free radicals in their bodies. Free radicals are harmful molecules that are believed to contribute to cataracts, microvascular problems, and neuropathy, and to advance the aging process. In the presence of free radicals, protein molecules can cross-link, or become glycosylated, which is the same action that cures meat. Beef jerky is tough, not easily penetrated by bacteria and does not decay. Obviously, these are good qualities for a food product, but not for the human body.
Antioxidants prevent rancidity and deterioration and are thought to inhibit the effects of free radicals. Vitamin E has been of particular interest to researchers.
Scientists in Italy and Belgium have shown that vitamin E will keep the "biological superglue" from forming. Extensive studies reported by Dr. A. Ceriello and...