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Why You Need the Bs

By: The Editors of Prevention
Excerpt From: Nature’s Medicines

Why You Need the Bs

B-complex vitamins are essential for your body to convert sugar and starches to energy, a chemical process called carbohydrate metabolism.  A shortage of any one of them can cause problems.  Vitamin B6 deficiency has been linked to glucose intolerance, which is an abnormally high rise in blood sugar after eating. 

Shortages of B vitamins can also lead to nerve damage in the hands and feet.  Some studies indicate that people with diabetes develop less of the numbness and tingling asociated with diabetes-related nerve damage if they take supplemental B vitamins, Dr. Rebecca Wynsome says.

People with diabetes tend to use up their B vitamins.  Also, poorly controlled diabetes causes these nutrients to be excreted in the urine, Dr. Wynsome says.  She recommends a supplement that includes 50 to 100 milligrams of most of the B vitamins.

Keep an Eye on Niacinamide

One B vitamin in particular, a form of niacin know as niacinamide, may actually help keep type 1 diabetes from developing in high-risk people, Dr. Cunningham says.

Type 1 diabetes is distinctly different from type 2, the more common type.  People with type 1 develop antibodies that attack and destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

“Niacinamide seems to help protect insulin-producing cells from attack”, Dr. Cunningham says.  Having enough on hand also helps your body produce more energy and facilitate chemical reactions. 

Niacinamide is crucial in making a molecule that is central to the energy-production process, he says.  In large doses, niacinamide can also inhibit the formation of certain types of free radicals, the free-roaming, unstable molecules that set off destructive chain reactions in your cells.

Researchers from New Zealand did a two-year study using high doses of niacinamide.  Among children with early signs of reduced insulin production, only 20 percent of those who took high doses of niacinamide progressed to type 1 diabetes.  In contrast, 80 percent of a group of children with the same early signs of type 1 who did not take niacinamide did develop insulin dependence.

In a similar study with adults, only 15 percent of those taking niacinamide developed type 1 diabetes, compared with 40 percent of the adults in a group that didn’t take the vitamin.