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Vitamins May Help Relieve Diabetes Symptoms, Study

Update Date: Apr 29, 2013 10:21 AM EDT

Vitamins may help ease symptoms in patients with diabetes, according to a new study.

Researchers at Tulane University revealed that vitamin therapy might help improve common symptoms of diabetic neuropathy such as pain, tingling and numbness in hands and feet.

Researchers followed 200 type 2 diabetes patients for six months.  Some of the patients were given Metanx, a vitamin-rich prescription medical food and other received a placebo.

"Within about two to three months patients taking Metanx started doing significantly better than those taking the placebo," lead researcher Dr. Vivian Fonseca, Tullis-Tulane Alumni Chair in Diabetes and past president of science and medicine for the American Diabetes Association, said in a news release.

"Neuropathy basically means abnormalities of the nerves," says Fonseca. "In diabetes the classic case is peripheral neuropathy, affecting the ends of nerves in the hands and feet."

Researchers explain that up to 60 percent of diabetes patients experience symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. What's more, the condition can get worse if the disease is not managed.

"The major causes of neuropathy are diabetes; in the past, leprosy; some infections; and vitamin deficiency," Fonseca explained.

Fonseca and his team decided to conduct the latest study after coming across several reports revealing that high doses of vitamins may ease neuropathy symptoms.

"I also found reports in the literature of Metanx, which contains high doses of B vitamins, helping people with neuropathy," Fonseca added.  However, researchers noted that the claims were not supported by clinical studies.

Fonseca said he suggested to the makers of Metanx, PamLab, a Covington, Louisiana-based company, to conduct a randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of Metanx on easing diabetes symptoms.

"I suggested to PamLab that we should do a randomized controlled trial and they agreed to fund a multi-center trial at Tulane and five other sites," Fonseca explained.

"We analyzed the study data and found that patients had improvement in some parameters tested and those with subtle vitamin deficiencies did the best. That tells me that vitamin deficiency may have been contributing to a worsening of that patient's neuropathy and we corrected that," he concluded.

The findings are published in the The American Journal of Medicine.

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