It’s an unfortunate fact that one out of every two people with diabetes will die of heart disease or heart failure. Why so many? Diabetics are more prone to heart disease and the risk is even higher in diabetics who also have hypertension – as so many do. But there could be a safe and inexpensive way to lower the risk of heart disease in diabetics. New research from the U.K. shows that supplementing with vitamin B1may lower the risk of diabetic heart disease.
Diabetics and Heart Disease: Can Vitamin B1 Help?
Vitamin B1, or thiamin, plays an important role in energy metabolism. Its most commonly found in meat products and whole grains, and diabetics often have lower levels of this vitamin in their bloodstream than non-diabetics.
Researchers at the University of Bristol put thiamin to the test. They gave a synthetic vitamin B1 supplement called benfotiamine to mice with and without diabetes. Not only did the supplement slow down how rapidly mice with type 1 and type 2 diabetes progressed to heart failure, it also helped mice with type 1 diabetes live longer after a heart attack.
Researchers believe vitamin B1 supplements helps protect heart cells from damage that comes from high glucose levels. When too much glucose enters cells, it damages proteins and genes. This leads to cellular damage and stress that can culminate in heart disease or heart failure. Vitamin B1 supplements help to “clean up” and remove damaging cellular toxins.
Heart Disease in Diabetics and Thiamin
Of course, vitamin B1 needs to be tested in humans before it could be recommended as a supplement for prevention of diabetic heart disease. On the other hand, thiamin supplements are safe at reasonable doses since it’s water-soluble and isn’t stored by the body.
Diabetes and Heart Disease: The Bottom Line?
Until researchers know more about the role thiamin plays in heart disease in diabetics, the best way to lower the risk of heart disease is to keep blood sugar and blood pressure well controlled, exercise, don’t smoke and eat a healthy diet. Diabetics who have elevated blood lipid levels should talk to their doctor about treatment. When you have diabetes, it’s important to reduce any other risk factors that increase the risk of diabetic heart disease.
If you have diabetes, take an active role in reducing your other risk factors for heart disease, and get plenty of thiamin in your diet – and stay tuned for further research about thiamin and diabetic heart disease.
Bristol University website. “Potential Role for Vitamin B1 in Preventing Heart Problems in People with Diabetes’.