High levels of vitamin B1 associated with supporting diabetic health

By: DSM Nutritional Products

The number of people with diabetes is continuing to rise. This article will explore the role of vitamin B1 in promoting diabetic health. 

The number of people with diabetes is continuing to rise, with the World Health Organization (WHO) stating that in 2014, there were 422 million people with the condition globally – a number that has quadrupled since 1980. This prevalence has seen a rapid increase in low-middle income countries, with the highest levels reported in China, where 47% of all adults have diabetes.

These figures are causing serious concern, as diabetes is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), kidney failure and blindness. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes.1

There is developing evidence that vitamins could provide additional health benefits beyond essentiality in pharmaceutical applications. Vitamin B1 – or thiamine – has long been associated with human health, including the maintenance of a healthy nervous system and improvement of cardiovascular function in the body. Scientific studies have highlighted that vitamin B1 can also help to support individuals with diabetes. In fact, a deficiency in the essential vitamin has been linked to the condition.  

B1 trial 

A clinical trial was carried out in 2009 to substantiate the link between vitamin B1 in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The aim of the pilot study was to assess the effectiveness of thiamine oral supplements in the reversal of microalbuminuria – where albumin protein passes through the kidneys into urine – in patients with type 2 diabetes. 40 individuals with diabetes with microalbuminuria were recruited at the Diabetes Clinic in Lahore, Pakistan and randomly assigned either placebo or treatment. Patients were then given three doses of 100mg capsules of thiamine or placebo every day for three months, followed by a two-month washout period. The primary endpoint of the trial was a change in urinary albumin excretion (UAE). Other markers of renal and vascular dysfunction and plasma concentrations of thiamine were determined.  


According to the results of the clinical trial, levels of UAE decreased in the patients receiving thiamine treatment for three months (median −17.7 mg/24 h; p < 0.001, n = 20). It was significantly lower than the patients receiving placebo for three months, although not at baseline. Also, during the two-month washout period in both groups, levels of UAE continued to decrease in both groups, although not significantly. There was no effect of thiamine treatment on glycaemic control, dyslipidaemia or blood pressure – nor were there any adverse effects of the therapy. 

As such, the conclusions from this pilot study highlight the use of high-dose thiamine therapy in the regression of UAE in individuals with type 2 diabetes and microalbuminuria.2

Further large-scale, long-term clinical studies are still required but the initial pilot study results look promising. As more scientific studies are coming to light about the benefits of vitamin intake beyond currently recognized health effects, there is the opportunity to develop innovative pharmaceutical applications along a similar approach.  

For more information, read our whitepaper ‘Micronutrients for pharmaceutical applications’. 

Published on

18 August 2017



4 min read

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[1] W. Limin et al., ‘Prevalence and ethnic pattern of diabetes and prediabetes in China in 2013’, JAMA, vol. 317, no. 24, 2013, p. 2515-2523.Emerging science  

[2] N. Rabbani et al., ‘High-dose thiamine therapy for patients with type 2 diabetes and microalbuminuria: a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study’, Diabetologia, vol. 52, no. 2, 2009, p. 208-12.

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