In the present study, the protective role of purified C-phycoerythrin (C-PE) against diabetic complications and Cu-mediated lipoprotein oxidation was evaluated. C-PE (25 and 50 mg/kg body weight per d) was administered to experimental streptozotocin–nicotinamide-induced type 2 diabetic male rats for 28 d. C-PE treatment successfully ameliorated diabetic complications by decreasing food intake, organ weights, serum concentrations of glucose, cholesterol, TAG, VLDL-cholesterol, creatinine, uric acid and thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS), with increases in body weight, Hb, total protein, bilirubin and ferric-reducing ability of plasma values. Hepatic and renal tissues demonstrated significant decreases in TBARS, lipid hydroperoxide and conjugated diene contents, with increases in superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, reduced glutathione, vitamin E and vitamin C levels. Furthermore, the 4-week ex vivo and in vitro administration of C-PE (0·5 and 1·0 mg/ml) indicated a decrease in Cu-mediated serum oxidation. The kinetics of the LDL oxidation profile showed significant prolongation of the lag phase with declines in oxidation rate, conjugated dienes, lipid hydroperoxide and TBARS. Results indicated the involvement of C-PE in the amelioration of diabetic complications by significant reductions in oxidative stress and oxidised LDL-triggered atherogenesis.