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Thiamine is an essential cofactor in carbohydrate metabolism, and deficiency can therefore cause various organ dysfunctions. Little is known about the prevalence and possible worsening of thiamine deficiency in critically ill patients. In this study, we investigated the prevalence of thiamine deficiency at admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) and hypothesized that intensive insulin therapy, aimed at regulating glucose levels, increases thiamine utilization and therefore might cause or worsen deficiency in patients with limited thiamine stores.An observational prospective cohort study was carried out in a medical–surgical ICU in a general teaching hospital in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. All adults who were treated during that time with intensive insulin therapy were included. Deficiency was defined as a thiamine level <100 nmol/L. No thiamine supplementation was administered except for normal amounts present in standard enteral feeding.A total of 58 patients were available for analysis. Median thiamine level at admission was 111 nmol/L. Deficiency was present in 39.7% of patients and was significantly associated with the presence of gastrointestinal pathology and with recent surgery. Thiamine levels increased a median of 14 nmol/L in 48 hours. Only 3.4% of patients showed a predefined relevant decline in thiamine levels.Intensive insulin therapy does not appear to cause or worsen thiamine deficiency. However, based on the high prevalence of deficiency at admission, it might be warranted to supplement thiamine in all patients admitted to the ICU, especially when there is an underlying gastrointestinal disease or recent surgery.