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Can vitamin B1 reduce kidney damage?

Research shows that high doses of vitamin B1 (thiamine) could reduce kidney disease in people with Type 2 diabetes.

In 2007, Diabetes UK-funded research at the University of Warwick showed that people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have around 75 per cent less levels of vitamin B1 than people without diabetes. This may not be due to diet, but to the rate at which the vitamin is cleared from the body.

Diabetes-related kidney disease study

Following on from this research, a pilot-scale clinical trial in Lahore, Pakistan investigated the effects of vitamin B1 therapy on diabetes-related kidney disease in 40 people with Type 2 diabetes.

The study showed that after three months of B1 therapy, levels of protein (microalbuminuria) in urine decreased and 35 per cent of participants had normal levels. The presence of protein in the urine is a sign of kidney damage. According to the researchers, the participants did not experience any side effects from the treatment.

Further studies

The researchers are now looking to conduct larger clinical trials to confirm these encouraging pilot-scale results. They will also be working on a Diabetes UK-funded project to understand why so much thiamine is lost in people with diabetes in the first place.

Promising results so far

Large clinical trial needed

“Diabetes UK hopes a large clinical trial will be possible, as results so far are very promising," said Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.

No firm conclusions yet

Don't look to vitamin supplements

However, we would like to stress that it's still too early to come to any firm conclusions about the role of vitamin B1 and we would not advise that people look to vitamin supplements to reduce their risk of kidney complications at this stage.

Three cornerstones of good diabetes management

Taking your prescribed medication, eating a healthy balanced diet and taking regular physical activity are key to good diabetes management.

Professor Paul Thornalley, lead researcher at the Warwick Medical School, said: "This is the first study of its kind and suggests that correcting thiamine deficiency in people with diabetes with thiamine supplements may provide improved therapy for early-stage kidney disease".

The research is published online in the journal Diabetologia.

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