The Benefits of Benfotiamine

Can this Thiamine-Derived Supplement Help?

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Benfotiamine is a substance derived from thiamine (a B vitamin also known as vitamin B1). Consuming benfotiamine is said to raise your levels of thiamine and, in turn, protect against health conditions associated with low thiamine levels.

Thiamine is found in a variety of foods including meat, poultry, eggs, and fortified grains such as bread, cereal, pasta, rice, and flour. People who mainly eat highly refined carbohydrates (such as white rice and unfortified white flour products) or avoid grains may be at greater risk for a thiamine deficiency, as are those with prolonged diarrhea, Crohn's disease, and alcohol dependency.

Strenuous exercise and conditions like hyperthyroidism increase the body's demand for thiamine.

Uses

Low thiamine levels are linked to a range of health problems, including nerve and heart disorders. Since benfotiamine appears to have higher bioavailability and absorption by the body than thiamine, some people use it to increase their thiamine levels and manage certain health conditions.

For example, benfotiamine is often touted as a natural remedy for the following conditions:

In addition, benfotiamine is said to slow the aging process, enhance exercise performance, boost mood, improve brain function, and reduce lactic acid buildup in the body.

Some proponents also suggest that benfotiamine can shield the body from the harmful effects of advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

A type of compound found in meat and other foods (particularly fried, roasted, baked, or grilled food), AGEs may trigger inflammation and contribute to a number of health issues.

The Benefits

To date, relatively few studies have examined the potential health benefits of taking benfotiamine supplements.

Here's a look at some key study findings:

1) Diabetes

Benfotiamine may be of some benefit to people with diabetes, according to a study published in Diabetes Care in 2006. For the study, 13 people with type 2 diabetes were given a meal with a high content of AGEs before and after three days of ingesting 1,050 mg of benfotiamine daily. Study results showed that benfotiamine appeared to protect against oxidative stress induced by the intake of AGEs.

In a 2010 study published in Diabetes Care, however, researchers investigated the effect of benfotiamine in people with type 2 diabetes and nephropathy. For the study, participants took benfotiamine or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Results revealed that benfotiamine did not reduce urinary albumin excretion (a test used to monitor kidney disease) or levels of KIM-1 (a marker of kidney injury).

A 12-week study published in PLoS One in 2012 also found that benfotiamine didn't significantly affect markers that lead to hyperglycemia-induced vascular complications.

Related: Natural Remedies for Diabetes

2) Diabetic Neuropathy

Several small studies suggest that benfotiamine may aid in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy (a condition marked by nerve damage that results from a diabetes-related elevation in blood sugar levels).

A 2012 study from Diabetes Care, however, found that 24 months of treatment with benfotiamine had no significant effects on peripheral nerve function or markers of inflammation in participants with type 1 diabetes.

3) Alzheimer's Disease

Benfotiamine shows promise for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, according to a small 2016 study published in Neuroscience Bulletin. Five participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease took benfotiamine (300 mg daily) for 18 months.

At the study's end, the five participants showed cognitive improvement. The researchers examined three of the participants by PET scan and found improvement compared to their initial scans.

Possible Side Effects

Although little is known about the safety of taking benfotiamine for an extended period of time, there's some concern that benfotiamine supplements may trigger certain side effects (such as upset stomach, nausea, dizziness, hair loss, weight gain, body odor, and a decrease in blood pressure).

People with a sensitivity to sulfur should avoid benfotiamine.

The safest and most effective dosage of benfotiamine is presently unknown. If you're considering the supplement, talk with your health care provider to determine which, if any, dosage of benfotiamine is right for you.

Also, keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get more tips on using supplements here.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, benfotiamine supplements can also be found in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

The Takeaway

While benfotiamine may be a promising supplement for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes complications, and other conditions involving advanced glycation end-products, not all studies have shown benefits. We can't be solid about the connection until there are large-scale clinical trials. 

A number of compounds in food are also being explored as possible AGE inhibitors. For instance, previous studies suggest that quercetin (found in capers, onions, cranberries, and apples), catechins (in green tea), and resveratrol (in red grapes, blueberries, red wine, and dark chocolate) may inhibit AGEs. Avoiding foods that are high in AGEs can also go a long way.

Sources:

Alkhalaf A, Kleefstra N, Groenier KH, et al. Effect of benfotiamine on advanced glycation endproducts and markers of endothelial dysfunction and inflammation in diabetic nephropathy. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40427. 

Alkhalaf A, Klooster A, van Oeveren W, et al. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial on benfotiamine treatment in patients with diabetic nephropathy. Diabetes Care. 2010 Jul;33(7):1598-601. 

Fraser DA, Diep LM, Hovden IA, et al. The effects of long-term oral benfotiamine supplementation on peripheral nerve function and inflammatory markers in patients with type 1 diabetes: a 24-month, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2012 May;35(5):1095-7. 

Pan X, Chen Z, Fei G, et al. Long-Term Cognitive Improvement After Benfotiamine Administration in Patients with Alzheimer's Disease. Neurosci Bull. 2016 Dec;32(6):591-596. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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