Keep Thiamin Levels Up — Especially if You’re Diabetic

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Thiamin is essential for your body to process carbohydrates, proteins and fats. You can call the vitamin an energy maker, because that’s exactly what it does. Vitamin B-1 is necessary for energy metabolism. The food you eat needs to be broken down into usable energy that your body uses immediately or stores for later use.

You may know that thiamin deficiency can impair your heart function, and this fact is especially true for those who suffer from congestive heart failure. This is a condition that develops over time, and it means your heart doesn’t pump blood the way it should. If it’s the left side of the heart, it won’t pump enough blood through your body; if it’s the heart’s right side, it won’t pump enough blood to your lungs. Heart failure can involve both sides.

In a double-blind study, 30 people were administered vitamin B-1 intravenously. Those who took 200 mg a day of the nutrient improved their cardiac condition after they had suffered congestive heart failure.

Researchers at Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, have also discovered that deficiency of thiamine may be key to a range of vascular problems for people with diabetes. This is an entirely new discovery, as thiamine deficiency in diabetes has remained hidden until now.

Diabetes is on the rise in the U.K. where the study was done, as well as here in the U.S., and is now reaching almost epidemic proportions. It is certainly one of the most significant health problems so far this century. Diabetes is associated, along with other symptoms, with vascular complications. Damage to the kidneys, to the retina, to the nerves in arms and legs, and heart disease and stroke are all common health problems associated with the disease.

University of Warwick researchers, led by Professor Paul Thornalley, have discovered that diabetic patients are thiamine deficient in their blood plasma. They also managed to unravel what was happening to thiamine in diabetic patients and connect it more closely to vascular complications in these patients.

Through the course of the study, the research team found that thiamine concentration in blood plasma was decreased 76% in type 1 diabetic patients and 75% in type 2 diabetic patients! Previously, no one picked up on this deficiency because thiamin status was measured by recording the activity of an enzyme (called “transketolase”) in red blood cells.

The researchers linked the decreased availability of thiamine in vascular cells in diabetes to vascular complications. One other interesting discovery the researchers made was that the decreased thiamine in diabetic patients was not due to a deficiency of dietary thiamin, but due to a significantly increased rate of removal of thiamine from the blood into the urine.