Ask the Expert

Why B1 may protect against diabetes

Q: Can taking thiamine help prevent diabetic kidney disease?

A: Thiamine, or B1, may be especially helpful for diabetics because of its prominent role in glucose metabolism. Some evidence indicates that diabetics have low levels of B1 and often display reduced activity of a B1-dependent enzyme, called transketolase, within red blood cells. Such a compromise may prevent transketolase-dependent reactions from halting adverse diabetic metabolic reactions.

Recent studies show that high-dose supplementation with two types of vitamin B1 prevents the development of diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy) in rats with toxin-induced diabetes. Although this type of diabetes leads to kidney dysfunction, both groups taking thiamine, either as regular thiamine or in a fat-soluble form, had their kidney dysfunction arrested by 70 percent to 80 percent after 24 weeks. This study, combined with others with similar results, lends support to taking high-dose thiamine supplements to ward off diabetic complications. It also warrants additional research and development of more bioavailable forms of B1.

This month’s ASK THE EXPERT is written by Anthony Almada, MS, nutrition and exercise biochemist. He has collaborated on more than 60 university-based studies, was cofounder of Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS), and is founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition.