A deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine) in people with diabetes could increase the risk of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, retinopathy and nerve damage.
Researchers from Warwick Medical School have found a new way to test accurately for levels of vitamin B1.
The research showed that people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have a vitamin B1 deficiency of 76 and 75 per cent, respectively, and that this deficiency was not due to diet, but to the rate at which the vitamin was cleared from the body.
It is the first time a deficiency of the vitamin has been identified in people with diabetes. It has been missed in the past because of the way thiamine levels were measured.
Matt Hunt, Science Information Manager at Diabetes UK, said:
“This Diabetes UK funded study could potentially have very exciting outcomes.
“More research needs to be done into the link between vitamin B1 deficiency and people with diabetes developing complications such as kidney and retina damage, heart disease and stroke. Researchers are already looking into the effect of giving people the vitamin in tablet form to see if early kidney damage can be reversed.
“From there, work could be done to see what effect supplementing vitamin B1 levels could have on other complications of diabetes such as nerve and eye damage.
“The reasons behind why the body removes such a staggering amount of vitamin B1 in people with diabetes also need to be investigated to see if it's a problem that can be tackled.
“Around 80 per cent of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the UK's working age population. Therefore, any research that could help must be looked at seriously.
“We should note that the vitamin supplement research is still at trial stage. We would not advise that people look to vitamin supplements to reduce their risk of complications at this stage.
“Eating a healthy balanced diet, taking regular physical activity and managing blood glucose levels are key to good diabetes management.”
The research is published in the journal.