Although melatonin has been established as a free radical scavenger and antioxidant, its effects in diabetes have not been thoroughly investigated. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to investigate the effects of melatonin administration on lipid peroxidation and antioxidant status in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes in rats. Concentrations of malondialdehyde (MDA) and reduced glutathione (GSH) in erythrocytes and activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) were compared in 3 groups of 10 rats each [control non-diabetic rats (group I), untreated diabetic rats (group II) and diabetic rats treated with melatonin (group III)]. In the study groups, diabetes developed 3 days after intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration of a single 60-mg/kg dose of STZ. Thereafter, while the rats in group II received no treatment, the rats in group III began to receive a 10-mg/kg i.p. dose of melatonin per day. After 6 wk, the rats in groups II and III had significantly lower body weights and significantly higher blood glucose levels than the rats of group I (P<0.001 and P<0.001, respectively). There were no significant differences in body weight or blood glucose levels between groups II and III. MDA levels in untreated diabetic rats were higher than those in control group rats and in diabetic rats treated with melatonin (P<0.01 and P<0.05, respectively). However, MDA levels in diabetic rats treated with melatonin were not different from those of the control group. The GSH, GSH-Px and SOD levels of untreated diabetic rats were significantly lower than those of the control group (P<0.02, P<0.002 and P<0.05, respectively). In group III, however, melatonin prevented decreases in the thiol antioxidant and the associated enzymes, and so these levels were not significantly different from those in the control group. These results confirm the presence of oxidative stress in STZ-induced experimental diabetes and indicate the beneficial free radical-scavenging and antioxidant properties of melatonin.