Sustained fructose consumption has been shown to induce insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, in part, by promoting oxidative stress. Alpha-lipoic acid (LA) is an antioxidant with insulin-sensitizing activity. The effect of sustained fructose consumption (20% of energy) on the development of T2DM and the effects of daily LA supplementation in fructose-fed University of California, Davis-Type 2 diabetes mellitus (UCD-T2DM) rats, a model of polygenic obese T2DM, was investigated. At 2 mo of age, animals were divided into three groups: control, fructose, and fructose + LA (80 mg LA.kg body wt(-1).day(-1)). One subset was followed until diabetes onset, while another subset was euthanized at 4 mo of age for tissue collection. Monthly fasted blood samples were collected, and an intravenous glucose tolerance test (IVGTT) was performed. Fructose feeding accelerated diabetes onset by 2.6 +/- 0.5 mo compared with control (P < 0.01), without affecting body weight. LA supplementation delayed diabetes onset in fructose-fed animals by 1.0 +/- 0.7 mo (P < 0.05). Fructose consumption lowered the GSH/GSSG ratio, while LA attenuated the fructose-induced decrease of oxidative capacity. Insulin sensitivity, as assessed by IVGTT, decreased in both fructose-fed and fructose + LA-supplemented rats. However, glucose excursions in fructose-fed LA-supplemented animals were normalized to those of control via increased glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Fasting plasma triglycerides were twofold higher in fructose-fed compared with control animals at 4 mo, and triglyceride exposure during IVGTT was increased in both the fructose and fructose + LA groups compared with control. In conclusion, dietary fructose accelerates the onset of T2DM in UCD-T2DM rats, and LA ameliorates the effects of fructose by improving glucose homeostasis, possibly by preserving beta-cell function.