Are Diabetic Complications Due To Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Deficiency?

| June 27, 2012

One of the worst things about having diabetes is the worry of the complications that it brings, including nerve damage, kidney and eye problems, and heart failure. We are told that these are the inevitable result of not keeping blood sugar levels within strict limits. But is this really true?

Pharmacist Dr Stuart Lindsey is a type 2 diabetes sufferer who believes that many of the complications of diabetes are down to vitamin deficiencies caused by the disease and that their symptoms can be better helped by simple vitamin supplements than by drugs. His findings have just been published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.

Dr Lindsey was a high street pharmacist for fifteen years, during which time he saw many people with diabetes getting onto what he calls the “sugar-med treadmill”. After prolonged treatment with their diabetic medications, the health of these patients did not improve. This disturbed him. Then, pain in his feet led to his being given a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes himself, which prompted him to take a hard look at conventional assumptions and treatment.

High levels of sugar in the blood are damaging and diabetes drugs aim to correct them by driving more sugar into the cells. But exactly what damage does high blood sugar do? It appears that one of its effects is to stimulate the kidneys to excrete vitamin B1 (thiamine) at a much higher rate than normal, leading to an acute deficiency of this vitamin.

The breakthrough research that never made the news

In 2005, researcher Paul Thornalley, at the University of Essex, wrote a paper showing that many diabetic symptoms and complications may be due to a deficiency of thiamine. Interestingly, one of the symptoms of beriberi, the classic thiamine deficiency disease, is nerve damage that looks very similar to diabetic neuropathy.

Other studies have found that deficiencies in all B-group vitamins, as well as vitamins C and D are common in diabetics. These deficiencies can cause most of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, including neuropathy, nephropathy (kidney damage), retinopathy (eye damage) and eventually heart failure.

You are probably wondering why this important information is not more widely known and why your doctor hasn’t told you about it. Well, the fact is there is no money to be made from vitamins, so the drugs companies naturally prefer to promote their expensive, synthetic products instead (irrespective of whether they work or not). And most doctors rely on the drugs companies for their treatment information.

Despite dire warnings from his GP, Dr Lindsey refused to go down the drugs route and instead started to treat himself with high doses of B-vitamins and other nutrients. Within a week, the shooting pains in his ankles were mostly gone. After three weeks, all of the other symptoms of numbness of the toes and overall pain of the feet, including the “boot effect” (the feeling that you have your boots or socks on), had also virtually disappeared.

Two years later, despite still having blood sugar readings that are considered high and for which most doctors would prescribe medication, he is free from neuropathy and has no signs of eye or kidney problems or heart disease. In his article, Dr Lindsey says “If all diabetics would supplement with B vitamins and vitamins C, D, and E, and minerals such as calcium and magnesium, they would lessen their problems with insulin and blood sugar, and the other serious symptoms of diabetes.”

I am not suggesting for one moment that you should ignore your doctor’s advice and rely solely on a regime of vitamin supplements, as Dr Lindsey did. Don’t stop taking medication you have been prescribed without talking through with your doctor the implications of doing so. It is important to work with your doctor and to get the necessary blood tests on a regular basis.

But, if you want to minimise problems with diabetic complications, it would seem sensible to take a high-strength multivitamin and mineral supplement that provides 100-150mg of thiamine a day. Don’t just take thiamine on its own, since it needs the other B-group vitamins and several minerals in order to work effectively. For personalised advice, book a consultation with a Nutritional Therapist who specialises in diabetes.

Of course, vitamins and minerals are not the only effective alternative to diabetes medications. One of my earlier blog posts covered some herbal remedies that can help. In the Far East, medicinal mushrooms have traditionally been used to treat diabetes and recent research has confirmed that they can have significant benefits. That will be the subject of my next blog post.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


References 1. Lindsey SL. Substituting vitamins and supplements for pharmaceuticals in type 2 diabetes. J Orthomolecular Med. 2012; 27(1):5-8.

2. Thornalley PJ. The potential role of thiamine (vitamin B-1) in diabetic complications. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2005; 1(3):287-298.

3. Brighthope IE. The Vitamin Cure for Diabetes: Prevent and treat diabetes using nutrition and vitamin supplementation. 2012 Basic Health Publications. ISBN-13: 978-1591202905.

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Category: Vitamins and Nutrients

Comments (1)

Testimonials are based on the personal experience of individuals. Results are not typical and the potential benefits of taking any drug or supplement may vary depending on your individual needs and health requirements. Please consult your GP before making any changes to your medical regimen.

  1. javed says:

    Dear Dr Martin,

    Your article regarding Diabetes is not only informative but very beneficial. The B vitamins group does help a great deal in combating Diabetes, not to mention the herbs/spices that you have so well pointed out. Thank you so very much for the vital information that you always provide. God Almighty bless you.