Siraitia grosvenori Swingle (SG) is a traditional Chinese fruit used as a folk medicine. Its extract (SG-ex) contains potent sweet elements with a sweetness several hundred times higher than table sugar. We investigated the antidiabetic effect of SG-ex in the type 2 diabetic Goto–Kakizaki (GK) rat. Diabetic 7-week-old GK rats were fed a diet supplemented with 0·4 % of the SG-ex for 13 weeks, and its antidiabetic effects were evaluated. SG-ex had no effect on food intake or body weight. In oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT), SG-ex supplementation improved the insulin response at 15 min (control, 63 (sem 6) pm; SG-ex, 107 (sem 20) pm; P < 0·05) and reduced the plasma glucose level at 120 min after the glucose administration (control, 18·5 (sem 0·8) mm; SG-ex, 14·8 (sem 0·7) mm; P < 0·05). The total amount of insulin in whole pancreas taken from fasting rats was higher in the SG-ex-supplemented group, which may explain the greater capacity to secrete insulin during the OGTT. Thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances in both the liver and the plasma were lower in the SG-ex-supplemented group, suggesting that an absorbable component in SG-ex has an antioxidative effect on lipid peroxidation, thereby counteracting the oxidative stress caused by a diabetic state. Excreted urine volume and urinary albumin level for 24 h were both reduced in the SG-ex-supplemented group, suggesting the attenuation of kidney damage that is caused by diabetes. These data indicate that SG-ex supplementation may prevent complications and attenuate pathological conditions for type 2 diabetes, along with its sweet characteristics.