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When you’re insulin resistant, that is, you’ve got metabolic syndrome, pretty much every chemical in the body is NOT QUITE RIGHT. Some are up. Some are down. Few are actually at physiologically NORMAL levels.
Traditionally the focus is on the big guns.
- And cholesterol
In this series, we take a look at some of the other players.
Who they are, what they’re up to and how they’re part of the state of insulin resistance.
Thiamine (vitamin B1) in insulin resistant
In metabolic syndrome, there is a very good chance, you’re don’t quite have enough of this B vitamin.
You are NOT authentically deficient.
If you were deficient, you would be in heaps of trouble – thiamine deficiency disorders include Beri beri or Wernicke’s encephalopathy. Both of these conditions can be fatal.
In metabolic syndrome, you have a functional deficiency.
This is a fancy way of saying……………. you don’t have enough to meet your needs.
Assessing thiamine status
Blood levels reflect what you had for dinner, which in and of it’s self, is not that helpful.
To figure out if you are functionally deficient, how the transketolase enzyme, inside red blood cells, behaves in the presence or absence of added thiamine.
A listless enzyme, suggests a problem.
So what do you need thiamine for ?
Well in a word, this little B vitamin is needed to burn things.
Chief among them…………….. IS GLUCOSE.
One of the other significant things, it’s responsible for burning, are branch chained amino acids. There are three of these, leucine, isoleucine and valine.
It’s like you’ve got a choked engine in the car. There is plenty of fuel, but you’re not GOING, because the fuel is not being burned, the same thing happens in a cell.
And a build up of unburned fuel, is the FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM……
when you’ve got metabolic issues.
Now, thiamine’s role in this process, is not to burn anything per se, thiamine provides the spark.
Sparking enzyme activity
He does this by assisting key enzymes, in pretty much every cell in the body.
In addition, to kick starting carb burning, thiamine also lights a fire, under an enzyme called guanylate cyclase. This little guy, encourages the tiny muscle cells, encircling blood vessels, to CHILL.
When they relax, blood flow around the body improves.
NOTE : Vasodilation is compromised when you’re insulin resistant.
So thiamine is involved in some important body chemistry, much of which is not running optimally in someone with metabolic syndrome.
So why has thiamine lost his spark ?
Thiamine is not something we humans can make. We have to get it from our diet. Good sources of thiamine in meats, eggs, legumes, nuts and whole grains. Foods that give you pretty much no thiamine, are dairy products, fruits and vegetables and REFINED GRAINS.
Unless they have been fortified.
Which is the case, in many countries, including the United States and Canada, the UK, Indonesia, Jordan, South Africa, and some Central Asian countries. Visit the Food fortification Initiative, to find out what happens in your neck of the woods.
Dietary deficiency NOT the problem
So if you’re eating, the odds that you’re not getting enough thiamine from your diet, is low.
The insufficiency problem, is more likely something else.
Top of the lists of problems………. the thiamine never, actually makes it in or the amount that makes it in, is not enough to meet YOUR demand.
Getting the thiamine IN
Depends on the thiamine sticking around long enough, to be picked up by thiamine transporters. What and who else is in the gut, can pose a risk to thiamine’s staying power.
Many creatures, including some gut residents, produce thiaminases, which shred the thiamine into little pieces.
And polyphenols, found in tea and coffee, stop the thiamine from reaching the thiamine transporters, located on the cells that line the gut.
And if that is not enough, the thiamine transporters, can fail, to move the thiamine in.
Thiamine transporter fails
Now you could be “unlucky” and have inherited a dickey transporter.
Or, your transporter could be overworked or “drunk”. Several commonly used drugs, including some drugs that are used to treat metabolic syndrome, such as metformin, use the same transporter.
NOTE : Alcohol causes the thiamine transporter, a lot of distress – this is why thiamine deficiency, is often seen in alcoholics.
And of course, getting enough is relative.
Some people just need more. The extraordinarily high demand, could be genetic or circumstantial. Some of the circumstances, demanding more include :
- Eating a high carb diet
- Being in a hypermetabolic state eg. hyperthyroidism
- Strenuous activity
- Acute illness/fever
- Adolescent growth
- Pregnancy and breast feeding
- Major trauma
- Major surgery
And INSULIN RESISTANCE
There are quite a few studies, suggesting getting a little more thiamine, can help improve your body chemistry.
There two ways to go about getting more.
You can make an effort to eat foods that are thiamine rich, or supplement.
NOTE : You don’t store it, so you need to consume thiamine on a regular basis.
When supplementing with thiamine
Supplementing, with thiamine, is a low risk strategy, BUT it must be thiamine, NOT a vitamin B complex. To date, here is no evidence to suggest, extra thiamine, will do any harm.
If you take more than you need, you will simply pee out the excess.
NOTE : The flip side of this, if you are pee-ing more, than you should, which can happen if you’re battling to control your sugar levels, you will need more, anyway ! Eish ! Welcome to the bad body chemistry rollercoaster.
Thiamin Deficiency in People with Obesity. American Society for Nutrition. Adv. Nutr. (2015) 6: 147–153. Jennifer C Kerns,Cherinne Arundel and Lakhmir S Chawla,
Thiamine deficiency and cardiovascular disorders. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. (2018) 28(10):965-972. E.S. Eshak, A.E. Arafa
Metformin Is a Substrate and Inhibitor of the Human Thiamine Transporter, THTR-2 (SLC19A3). Mol Pharm. (2015) 12(12): 4301–4310. Xiaomin Liang, Huan-Chieh Chien, Sook Wah Yee, Marilyn M. Giacomini, Eugene C. Chen, Meiling Piao, Jia Hao, Jolyn Twelves, Eve-Irene Lepist, Adrian S. Ray, and Kathleen M. Giacomini.
NOTE : Thiamine is just one of hundreds of chemicals in the body that are amiss when you’re suffering from metabolic syndrome. To learn more about some of the other players, go to our “Ups and Downs” of Insulin Resistance series.
Officially you need 14-16 mg. The average American is getting 33 mg. High doses cause insulin resistance, which leads to obesity, which leads to diabetes.
Every morning, just before dawn, brown fat cells burn sugar, to warm you up. They’ll do it, even if you’re insulin resistant, as long as they’re there.
Mice adapted to living at high altitudes, have special chemistry, allowing them to SAFELY squeeze more juice out of carbs, but you probably don’t.