This study is an attempt to assess the role of dietary supplementation in the treatment and prevention of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The authors developed an animal model system to study this problem. Animals given streptozotocin to induce a type I diabetic state showed elevated glucose levels and decreased body weight. Analysis of the sciatic nerve revealed a decrease in nerve conduction velocity and Na(+)-K(+)-ATPase activity. The activity of protein kinase C, another component of the nerve transmission process, was also affected by the diabetic state. The dietary intervention of polyunsaturated fatty acids seemed to revert some of these changes toward normal.