Benfotiamine, a special form of thiamine, may help protect against heart problems, diabetic complications, and Alzheimer’s disease. First formulated in the 1950s by scientists in Japan, benfotiamine is a fat-soluble form of thiamine (vitamin B1) that gets into the body much more readily than normal thiamine.
Since then, this new form of thiamine has proven to possess powerful benefits. Studies have shown that benfotiamine can help protect the body from damage caused by high blood sugar levels and may help the brain, heart and other organs stay healthier.
Benfotiamine is special because it’s fat soluble. That’s what enables this nutrient to get into the body’s cells at a higher rate than regular thiamine, which is water soluble.
Benfotiamine helps your body manage sugar
Once there, according to lab tests at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, benfotiamine can block three of the physiological pathways in the body that, in folks with diabetes, can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and damage to legs that can necessitate amputation.1
According to the Einstein researchers, benfotiamine produces these amazing health benefits by activating an enzyme in the body called transketolase. Transketolase can prevent excessive blood glucose from being converted into metabolites that wreak havoc on the body’s organs and structures.
Instead, the enzyme turns these toxins into harmless chemicals.
“By pure serendipity, it turned out that benfotiamine boosted the activity of the enzyme transketolase by 300 to 400 percent – something we never could have predicted based on benfotiamine’s chemical structure,” says researcher Michael Brownlee, MD.
Benfotiamine and the brain
In an exciting area of research, scientists are now investigating benfotiamine’s potential effects on the brain.
Some of these studies focus on what your brain needs to do when you learn a new skill or study a new subject like an unfamiliar language. That requires the brain’s neurons to form new networks to incorporate your new memories and knowledge – an ability called neural plasticity. When your memory starts to slip and you suffer what’s called cognitive decline, that plasticity is lost.
Lab tests in Europe and Asia show that benfotiamine can help the brain maintain its plasticity.2
According to this research and other studies, benfotiamine interacts with the actions of our genes to cause epigenetic effects that restrict the manufacture and activity of an enzyme referred to as GSK3β. GSK3β can block neural plasticity and benfotiamine reduces this negative effect.3
Added to that, other research shows that benfotiamine can defend against the brain-damaging effects of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which can form as the result of high blood sugar.4 AGEs form when accumulated sugar in the body interacts with fats. But benfotiamine has been shown to block AGE formation in both the brain and spinal cord.
But it’s only the beginning…
Better heart health
Along with helping brain health, studies have also found that benfotiamine may help the heart by both lowering the risk of heart disease and helping the heart recover when heart cells are injured by a cardiac mishap.
Lab tests involving researchers in Germany and the Middle East show that benfotiamine can reduce the level of cardiac enzymes linked to heart damage while also lowering oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and staving off the death of heart cells.5
The researchers conclude that benfotiamine “could be considered a promising agent for therapeutic and prophylactic interventions in different cardiovascular disorders.”
Right now, benfotiamine is approved as a drug in Germany that’s prescribed to treat diabetic neuropathy, sciatica and other painful nerve conditions. And, since folks with Alzheimer’s disease are almost always thiamine deficient, scientists are studying if benfotiamine could help treat this type of dementia.
New research into dementia
In the U.S. it’s being tested in a nationwide trial to see if it is effective as a metabolic treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The research is a pretty big deal and is being funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study at University of California San Diego, in collaboration with Burke Neurological Institute and Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
Right now, you can buy benfotiamine as a dietary supplement. If you decide to take it, the recommended dosage is about 150 to 300mg twice daily.6 According to the experts, there are very few potential side effects though some people may get a stomach-ache or a temporary skin flush as is customary with some B vitamins.