What is Diabetes?
The definition of diabetes is elevated blood sugar. Type One, juvenile diabetes, is caused by pancreatic failure, and insulin deficiency resulting in elevated blood sugar. The more common Type Two diabetes in adults is an "insulin resistance" problem associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome. In this second type of diabetes, insulin levels are adequate or even quite elevated, however, there is "insulin resistance", meaning the hormone message of the circulating insulin is ignored and blood sugar remains elevated in spite of large amounts of circulating insulin.
Diabetics Have Thiamine Deficiency
Current research shows that diabetics have thiamine deficiency, and thiamine supplementation has been shown to prevent many of the complications of diabetes, namely, the nephropathy, neuropathy,
retinopathy and vascular disease known to plague diabetics. This article will examine the role of vitamin B1, also called thiamine, in the patient with elevated blood sugar.
Pharmacist Stuart Lindsey Comes Clean
For many years, Stuart Lindsey managed a neighborhood pharmacy observing his diabetic customers faithfully taking diabetic medications, yet showed little improvement in health. Here is a quote from Linsdey's article (1A):
" After prolonged consumption of their diabetic medications, their health did not improve. This was disturbing to me (1A)"
Finally, Stuart himself developed diabetes and painful neuropathy in his feet, so he began researching the disease. In a self-interested attempt to understand and cure his symptoms, Stuart discovered a 2005 paper by Dr. Thornalley detailing how many of his symptoms are actually due to thiamine deficiency (also called Vitamin B1).(7)
Increased Renal Excretion of Thiamine
Thiamine (Vitamin B1) levels are lower in diabetics, partly because the elevated blood sugar causes increased thiamine excretion by the kidney at a rate twenty-five times higher than normal. (1,2) This leads to an acute deficiency of thiamine, also called beri-beri.(1C) In addition, other B vitamins, vitamin C and Vitamin D supplementation may also be beneficial.[1B]
Thiamine Deficiency Not On The Radar Screen
Stuart Lindsey reasoned that most of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, the neuropathy, kidney damage, retinopathy (eye damage), and eventually heart failure are from thiamine deficiency (acute beriberi) (1A)(1C). Beri-Beri is thought to be rare in the US and the western world and merely of historical interest. After all, boxes of cereal at the grocery store are fortified with B vitamins to prevent beri-beri and pellagra (niacin deficiency). For the most part, thiamin deficiency in diabetes is not even on the radar screen for mainstream medical doctors. And it should be.
Above Image: 1920 photo of the People's Drug Store located in Washington, D.C. by Wikimedia Commons
Stuart's Vitamin Program
When Stuart Lindsey was diagnosed with type II diabetes, his doctor placed him on the standard diabetic drugs, statins, metformin and Byetta, all of which he refused to take. Instead, based on Dr. Thornalley's theory of diabetes as an acute thiamine deficiency, Stuart Lindsey began a regimen of vitamin and mineral supplements which included thiamine. For the complete list, see original article here.
Metformin is a Good Drug !!!
I agree with Stuart Lindsey's assessment and dim view of diabetic drug treatment, with the exception of Metformin, which is a good drug as discussed in a previous article. Metformin is a "good drug", and should be the first line of treatment for elevated blood sugar. Metformin has many health benefits outlined in my previous article. So, I think it was a mistake for Stuart, or any diabetic for that matter, to withhold Metformin.
Diabetic Neuropathy Cured With Vitamins !!
Upon starting his vitamin regimen, Stuart Lindsey reported the painful neuropathy in his feet subsided fairly quickly, within a week. The numbness and sensations of a "boot effect" in the feet were gone after three weeks. He noticed if he quit the vitamins the symptoms came back.
Thiamine is Found in Nerve Tissue
Thiamine modulates nerve impulse transmission; hence its usefulness in neuropathy and nerve pain syndromes.(4) Thiamine is an integral component of synaptic membranes in brain and neural tissue.
Diabetics Are Thiamine Deficient
In 1987, Dr Saito from Japan measured blood thiamine levels in diabetics and found thiamine deficiency. Average blood thiamine level in 46 diabetics was only 47 ng/ml, slightly below the 50 ng/ml lower limit of normal.(2) In 2007, Dr. Thornalley from the UK found plasma thiamine levels in diabetics were only one-fourth that of normal controls.(1)
Thiamine Supplementation helps Control Blood Sugar in Diabetics
In an animal model of diabetes, thiamine-treated diabetic mice had blood sugars reduced to 111 ng/dl compared 132 ng/dl in diabetic controls (3). This indicated that thiamine was useful in controlling blood sugar. I would add here that Metformin is a very beneficial and useful drug that should should not be withheld from the diabetic with elevated blood sugar.