Effects of thiamine and benfotiamine on intracellular glucose metabolism and relevance in the prevention of diabetic complications. Acta Diabetol
Thiamine (vitamin B1) is an essential cofactor in most organisms and is required at several stages of anabolic and catabolic intermediary metabolism, such as intracellular glucose metabolism, and is also a modulator of neuronal and neuro-muscular transmission. Lack of thiamine or defects in its intracellular transport can cause a number of severe disorders. Thiamine acts as a coenzyme for transketolase (TK) and for the pyruvate dehydrogenase and alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase complexes, enzymes which play a fundamental role for intracellular glucose metabolism. In particular, TK is able to shift excess fructose-6-phosphate and glycerhaldeyde-3-phosphate from glycolysis into the pentose-phosphate shunt, thus eliminating these potentially damaging metabolites from the cytosol. Diabetes might be considered a thiamine-deficient state, if not in absolute terms at least relative to the increased requirements deriving from accelerated and amplified glucose metabolism in non-insulin dependent tissues that, like the vessel wall, are prone to complications. A thiamine/TK activity deficiency has been described in diabetic patients, the correction of which by thiamine and/or its lipophilic derivative, benfotiamine, has been demonstrated in vitro to counteract the damaging effects of hyperglycaemia on vascular cells. Little is known, however, on the positive effects of thiamine/benfotiamine administration in diabetic patients, apart from the possible amelioration of neuropathic symptoms. Clinical trials on diabetic patients would be necessary to test this vitamin as a potential and inexpensive approach to the prevention and/or treatment of diabetic vascular complications.
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