Left ventricular (LV) dysfunction is a common comorbidity in diabetic patients, although the molecular mechanisms underlying this cardiomyopathic feature are not completely understood. Aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) has been considered a key cardioprotective enzyme susceptible to oxidative inactivation. We hypothesized that hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress would influence ALDH2 activity, and ALDH2 inhibition would lead to cardiac functional alterations in diabetic rats. Diabetes was induced by intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of 60 mg/kg streptozotocin. Rats were divided randomly into four groups: control, untreated diabetic, diabetic treated with N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and diabetic treated with α-lipoic acid (α-LA). Cardiac contractile function, oxidative stress markers and reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels were assessed. ALDH2 activity and expression also were determined. The role of ALDH2 activity in change in hyperglycemia-induced mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψ) was tested in cultured neonatal cardiomyocytes. Myocardial MDA content and ROS were significantly higher in diabetic rats than in controls, whereas GSH content and Mn-SOD activity were decreased in diabetic rats. Compared with controls, diabetic rats exhibited significant reduction in LV ejection fraction and fractional shortening, accompanied by decreases in ALDH2 activity and expression. NAC and α-LA attenuated these changes. Mitochondrial Δψ was decreased greatly with hyperglycemia treatment, and high glucose combined with ALDH2 inhibition with daidzin further decreased Δψ. The ALDH2 activity can be regulated by oxidative stress in the diabetic rat heart. ALDH2 inhibition may be associated with LV reduced contractility, and mitochondrial impairment aggravated by ALDH2 inhibition might reflect an underlying mechanism which causes cardiac dysfunction in diabetic rats.