Growing prevalence of diabetes (type 2 as well as type 1) and its related morbidity due to vascular complications creates a large burden on medical care worldwide. Understanding the molecular pathogenesis of chronic micro-, macro- and avascular complications mediated by hyperglycemia is of crucial importance since novel therapeutic targets can be identified and tested. Thiamine (vitamin B1) is an essential cofactor of several enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism and published data suggest that thiamine metabolism in diabetes is deficient. This review aims to point out the physiological role of thiamine in metabolism of glucose and amino acids, to present overview of thiamine metabolism and to describe the consequences of thiamine deficiency (either clinically manifest or latent). Furthermore, we want to explain why thiamine demands are increased in diabetes and to summarise data indicating thiamine mishandling in diabetics (by review of the studies mapping the prevalence and the degree of thiamine deficiency in diabetics). Finally, we would like to summarise the evidence for the beneficial effect of thiamine supplementation in progression of hyperglycemia-related pathology and, therefore, to justify its importance in determining the harmful impact of hyperglycemia in diabetes. Based on the data presented it could be concluded that although experimental studies mostly resulted in beneficial effects, clinical studies of appropriate size and duration focusing on the effect of thiamine supplementation/therapy on hard endpoints are missing at present. Moreover, it is not currently clear which mechanisms contribute to the deficient action of thiamine in diabetes most. Experimental studies on the molecular mechanisms of thiamine deficiency in diabetes are critically needed before clear answer to diabetes community could be given.
Keywords: Benfotiamine; Cardiovascular disease; Chronic kidney disease; Diabetes; Hyperglycemia; Metabolic syndrome; Nephropathy; Thiamine; Transketolase; Vitamin B1.