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Originally published December 22 2008

Thiamine Found Important for Diabetics

by Patty Donovan

(NaturalNews) Although most cases of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates, the number of people with this disease, including children, just keeps exploding as does the number of dialysis centers. Type 2 diabetes used to be called "adult-onset diabetes" and was unheard of in children, but that is unfortunately no longer true. Complications of diabetes are devastating to the patient, affecting every aspect of their life. As complications progress, quality of life deteriorates. Ongoing research is showing that a simple vitamin, thiamine (B1) is the key to preventing, treating and even reversing many of these complications.

Complications of diabetes include nerve damage, eye problems, cardiovascular disease and kidney damage. Kidney failure usually occurs 15 to 20 years after the onset of diabetes, so patients with kidney failure were typically 50 to 70 years old. Now however, patients in their late twenties and early thirties are developing kidney failure due to Type 2 diabetes. Most people, even doctors, believe those complications can be avoided simply by keeping blood sugar tightly controlled with diet, oral medication or insulin. But current research indicates that although very good control may delay complications, it often does not prevent their onset. Dr. Paul J. Thornalley from the University of Essex in England states that a significant proportion of patients with tight blood glucose control still develop kidney damage and other complications.

Diabetic nephropathy occurs when blood vessels inside the glomerulus (part of the filtering mechanism in the kidney) are destroyed, leading to thickening and scarring of the glomerulus. The end result is inability of the kidneys to adequately filter the blood, excrete waste and balance fluid and electrolytes. The only treatment at this point is life long dialysis or a kidney transplant. Diabetic nephropathy is the number one cause of end-stage kidney disease and the diagnosis of about 60% of patients on dialysis is diabetic nephropathy. Researchers at the University of Warwick have discovered high doses of thiamine, vitamin B1, can reverse early diabetic kidney disease in type 2 diabetes.

One of the first signs of diabetic nephropathy is increased excretion of albumin (protein) in the urine. This is known as microalbuminuria. This symptom may present 5 to 10 years before the kidneys overtly fail. The research, led by led by Dr Naila Rabbani and Professor Paul J Thornalley at Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Punjab and Sheik Zaid Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan, discovered that high oral doses of thiamine can significantly decrease the excretion of albumin and actually reverse early kidney disease in type 2 diabetics.

Forty patients with type 2 diabetes aged between 35 and 65 years old took part in the study. The patients were randomly assigned either a placebo or given 100mg of thiamine three times a day for three months. Albumin excretion was lowered by 41% in those patients taking the thiamine and 35% of those patients actually returned to normal values after the treatment with thiamine. Although more research is pending, these results are so dramatic that all diabetics should probably start supplementing with thiamine.

In an earlier study led by Professor Paul Thornalley, researches showed that thiamine deficiency could be key to a range of vascular problems for diabetes patients including retinal disease and cardiovascular disease. Thiamine has also been shown to be helpful in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. Studies have shown that beneficial action of thiamine was independent of blood sugar control. In other words, even if blood sugar is not ideally controlled, thiamine supplementation still works.

Dr. Thornalley and his team have already proven that patients with diabetes have a thiamine deficiency. Usually, thiamine levels are determined indirectly by measuring the activity of an enzyme, transketolase, in red blood cells. Increased activity usually indicates high thiamine levels, but they discovered activity of this enzyme is also high in deficiency states. By directly measuring thiamine levels in the blood, it was found that thiamine levels in type 1 diabetics were 76% lower and in type 2 diabetics 75% lower than in a control population. Thiamine deficiency in diabetics is not due to low intake but to greatly increased urinary output. For diabetics, supplementing with adequate amounts of thiamine is essential. They are unable to maintain adequate blood levels with diet alone.

There is a form of thiamine, although "synthetic" that is likely even better for diabetics than regular thiamine. Benfotiamine is similar to allithiamines naturally present in garlic. Although technically it's not fat soluble, most supplement companies call it fat soluble because of its ability to cross lipid barriers. Thiamine, in the form of benfotiamine can reach high levels in the tissues and is not excreted rapidly. Benfotiamine has been shown to block 3 of the 4 metabolic pathways known to lead to vascular disease in diabetics. Besides blocking the metabolic pathways, benfotiamine has been shown to reduce Advanced Glycation Endproducts or AGEs. These are reactive particles that cause destruction of cells leading to aging and disease. These are the same products responsible for caramelizing onions or peanut brittle, so you could look at AGEs as being at work caramelizing your body, inside and out. AGEs form in the presence of sugar therefore more sugar equals more AGEd proteins. This is why diabetics experience the effects of AGEs much sooner than the rest of the population.

The body's ability to absorb and metabolize conventional thiamine supplements is very limited. No matter how much thiamine you take plasma levels don't increase beyond about the first 12 milligrams of the dose. Very little thiamine actually makes it into the cells where it is needed. Multiple studies in rats and humans are showing great promise using benfotiamine in the treatment/prevention of the complications of diabetes and this appears to be the better thiamine supplement for diabetics. There have been no reports of toxicity with benfotiamine in any of the neither studies nor has there been reports from the public. It is actually LESS toxic than thiamine hydrochloride, the most commonly used thiamine supplement. Benfotiamine has been studied since the 1960s so there is little doubt about its lack of toxicity.


About the author

Patty Donovan was in a wheelchair and could only walk around her house with a cane. She was on over 20 medications. When told to "take the morphine, get in the wheelchair and learn to live with it" by a neurosurgeon, she knew her life had to change. She is now almost a fanatic when it comes to healing through the use of "whole foods" and and natural remedies. Since that time, she has spent countless hours researching nutrtion and alternative health. After spending 30 years in the allopathic health care industry in both pharmacy and as an RN, she brings a unique perspective to Natural News readers. Since committing to this new life style, she no longer uses even a cane, has gotten off over 20 medications, lost over 50lbs and returned to work.

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