I am sure that everybody is familiar with thiamine or vitamin B1. Thiamine plays a number of key roles in the human body which includes protecting the brain’s health and boosting the immune system. Benfotiamine as the name would suggest is a synthetic type of thiamine which also has a variety of health benefits. It is commonly used to treat symptoms of diabetes, improve cognitive health and protect against Alzheimer’s but there are plenty of other potential uses as you are about to find out.
What Is Benfotiamine and How Does It Work?
Benfotiamine is a derivative of vitamin B1 or thiamine that can be more readily absorbed by the body through digestion. It gets altered in the gut by enzymes and then broken into thiamine in the liver or by the body’s red blood cells.
Benfotiamine is incredibly well absorbed by the body. According to studies, benfotiamine supplements increase the body’s levels of thiamine five times more than similar doses of thiamine itself.
Benfotiamine Health Benefits
1) Diabetic Neuropathy Other Symptoms Linked to Diabetes
One of the most common uses of benfotiamine is to help manage blood sugar levels and treat diabetes as well as certain symptoms of diabetes like neuropathy.
According to research, benfotiamine helps improve the breakdown of sugars to be used as energy as well as insulin levels. (1)
Studies have also demonstrated that benfotiamine can help treat neuropathy which is a common condition in diabetics. Diabetic neuropathy is characterized by nerve pain, numbness and weakness often in the fingers and toes.
While some studies have concluded that benfotiamine can help, the results are unfortunately mixed with other studies failing to demonstrate any beneficial effects.
In one double-blind study published in 2008, 165 patients with diabetic polyneuropathy were given either benfotiamine supplements or a placebo for six weeks. By the end of the study, those who had taken the benfotiamine supplements experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms and especially in regard to pain. (2)
The results of this research are in line with an earlier and smaller scale study. In this double-blind experiment, several doses of benfotiamine were given to 24 diabetics with neuropathy for a period of 12 weeks. Those treated with benfotiamine experienced a reduction in their symptoms including pain. (3)
Unfortunately, the results of a long-term study done over the course of two years were less promising. In this study which used 59 patients with type 1 diabetes, the researchers concluded that long-term use of benfotiamine did not significantly improve neuropathy symptoms nor did it reduce inflammation. (4)
Several animal studies as well as research done on animals have looked at the effects of benfotiamine on other conditions related to diabetes.
One small-scale study published in 2006 looked at the effects of daily benfotiamine supplements on 13 patients with diabetes. They found that supplementing with benfotiamine protected the participants from the effects of a meal containing high advanced glycation end products. The researchers suggest that benfotiamine works by negating the effects of free radicals. (5)
Animal studies have found that benfotiamine helped improve blood circulation and the health of blood vessels in diabetic mice. Researchers have also found that benfotiamine could help muscles damaged by inadequate blood flow to heal. (6)
Another study found that benfotiamine helped protect the hearts of mice from the effects of high levels of blood sugar. Specifically, researchers found that benfotiamine strengthened heartbeat while protecting against cell death. (7)
2) Brain Health, Stress and Anxiety
A number of studies have revealed that supplementing with benfotiamine can protect your brain from damage, improve cognitive function and also relieve stress and anxiety.
In one study published in 2014, researchers found that benfotiamine helped reduce the symptoms of depression in mice as well as improving their mental function. (8) Another study published in 2017 found that benfotiamine helped reduce the stress impact and anxiety symptoms in mice while simultaneously treating damage to brain cells. (9)
The researcher attributed the effects to the way in which benfotiamine triggers the serotonin pathways leading to a reduction in anxiety as well as healing damaged cell connections in the brain.
In vitro studies have also shown that benfotiamine could help reduce inflammation of brain cells in the laboratory. Inflammation in the brain is one of the major cause of degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. (10)
3) Protection Against Damage from Alcohol
Studies done on animals have revealed that benfotiamine may help protect our liver against damage caused by alcohol. In one study mice were fed ethanol via a tube and then fed with benfotiamine 30 minutes later. The researchers found that the benfotiamine helped protect the animals’ liver from damage. (11)
Apart from potentially protecting the liver from the effects of alcohol, benfotiamine may also help treat depression in alcoholics. Many alcoholics are thiamine deficient and this can impair their cognitive functions, memory and every day emotional well-being.
One study set out to analyze the effects of benfotiamine on 85 alcoholic participants. They found that it decreased feelings of depression in severe alcoholics. (12) Another recent study found that taking benfotiamine for 24 weeks helped reduce the amount of alcohol consumed by a number of the female participants. (13)
4) Kidney Health
Several studies indicate that benfotiamine can help protect your kidneys from damage.
In one study done on rats, researchers found that administering benfotiamine helped protect both the kidneys and the gut of the animals during dialysis. According to the researchers, it helped reduce the number of harmful AGEs present in the blood and also helped protect against cell death by strengthening the cell structure. (14)
In a pilot trial published in 2008 researchers set out to evaluate the effects of benfotiamine on hemodialysis patients. They found that benfotiamine helped protect against damage by boosting the body’s antioxidant defenses. (15)
5) Protection against Damage from AGEs
Studies have consistently demonstrated that benfotiamine effectively inhibits the three pathways which lead to toxic substance formation including ACEs or advanced glycation end products.
AGEs are linked to the development and the progression of a number of serious disorders including:
- heart disease
- diabetic neuropathy
- kidney disease
- peripheral vascular disease which affects the blood vessels in the extremities.
While damage linked to AGEs has often been associated with diabetic patients, damage to the heart can also be seen in adults without the disease. The aging process itself is regarded as a risk factor for heart disease because if the gradual build-up of AGEs even in people without diabetes.
According to very recent research, benfotiamine can help reduce the amount of AGEs in the body. In one study published in March 2017, benfotiamine was seen to reduce AGE levels in a group of diabetic patients. (16)
How to Take Benfotiamine
Benfotiamine is readily available in capsule form in many health stores and online. It is also used as an ingredient in a number of other formulas. The clinical trials done to date have found that benfotiamine is most effective when taken in doses ranging from 300 mg to 600 a day divided into two equal doses.
Precautions and Side Effects
Studies done to date have not recorded any adverse side effects from taking benfotiamine on its own. There have however been some anecdotal reports of unwanted side effects including nausea, low blood pressure, and dizziness.
If you are in any doubt, please speak to your doctor before taking benfotiamine supplements.