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Issue 146 Item 15 Lipid Soluble Thiamine May Benefit Diabetes Patients

Lipid soluble Thiamine helps to prevent diabetic retinopathy damage. New research results point to a possible role for lipid soluble thiamine in preventing some of the most common side effects of diabetes. Researchers reported that diabetic retinopathy damage may be avoided through the use of high doses of lipid soluble thiamine.

High levels of glucose are responsible for microvascular damage and the resulting blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure and atherosclerosis often associated with diabetes.

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and their colleagues in Germany recently reported that this damage may be avoided through the use of high doses of lipid soluble thiamine.

The scientists looked at the development of diabetic retinopathy in a rat model of diabetes. Treating the animals with high doses of lipid soluble thiamine for 36 weeks completely blocked the development of retinal damage. They were also able to show that the lipid soluble thiamine worked by activating the enzyme transketolase, a key thiamine-dependent enzyme involved in carbohydrate metabolism.

The data indicates that treatment of diabetic patients with benfotiamine or other lipid-soluble thiamine derivatives might prevent or delay the development of diabetic complications." The key function that they believe is important is the increase in the transketolase activity. As the researchers reported, standard water soluble thiamine does not stay around in the body long enough to provide the increase in activity needed to make a difference. The lipid soluble forms of thiamine are much more bioavailable, thus significantly increasing the transketolase activity.

Although these results have not yet been confirmed in humans, they point to exciting new therapeutic opportunities for diabetes patients, 20,000 of whom now go blind every year as a direct result of diabetic retinopathy. There are lipid soluble forms of thiamine available without a prescription.

Hammes HP, Du X, Edelstein D, Taguchi T, Matsumura T, Ju Q, Lin J, Bierhaus A, Nawroth P, Hannak D, Neumaier M, Bergfeld R, Giardino I, Brownlee M. Benfotiamine blocks three major pathways of hyperglycemic damage and prevents experimental diabetic retinopathy. Nat Med. 2003 Mar;9(3):294-9.