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Potential role for vitamin B1 in preventing heart problems in people with diabetes

Diabetes UK-funded research shows that a dietary supplement of the synthetic derivative of vitamin B1 has the potential to prevent heart disease caused by diabetes.  Scientists believe vitamin B1 may help the body to dispose of toxins and therefore protect cells of the heart from becoming damaged.

Around 50 per cent of people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes. Researchers warn that the increasing prevalence of diabetes, with around one in twenty people in the UK now diagnosed with the condition, will result in a new epidemic of heart failure unless new treatments are developed.

Improved survival and healing after heart attacks

Researchers at the University of Bristol gave a synthetic derivative of vitamin B1 called benfotiamine to mice with and without diabetes. In earlier research published in the journal 'Circulation: Heart Failure', they found that treating mice with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes with benfotiamine from the early stages of diabetes can delay progression to heart failure.

In the latest research published in the 'Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology' they found that the vitamin B1 derivative improved survival and healing after heart attacks in Type 1 mice (and even in the mice without diabetes too). Foods rich in vitamin B1 include Marmite, vegetables, milk, eggs, yeast and Quorn, but it is not yet known whether changes to diet alone would provide enough of the vitamin to see the same effects achieved in mice with supplements.

Research has promising results

Professor of Experimental Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Bristol, Paolo Madeddu who led the research said, "Supplementation with benfotiamine from early stages of diabetes improved the survival and healing of the hearts of diabetic mice that have had heart attacks, and helped prevent cardiovascular disease in mice with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. We conclude that benfotiamine could be a novel treatment for people with diabetes, and the next step in this research will be testing whether similar effects are seen in humans."

Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK said, "Diabetes UK is pleased to have supported this research and is encouraged by these promising results which now need to be tested and confirmed in human trials. We would like to note that it’s still too early to draw any firm conclusions about the role of vitamin B1 in the prevention of complications and we would not advise that people look to vitamin supplements to reduce their risk of cardiovascular complications at this stage. Taking your prescribed medication, eating a healthy balanced diet and taking regular physical activity are key to good diabetes management and therefore reducing your risk of diabetes associated complications."

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