The Benefits of Benfotiamine

Can this Thiamine-Derived Supplement Help?

Woman checking her blood sugar.
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Benfotiamine is a dietary supplement that is a derivative of thiamine (also known as vitamin B1), a B vitamin found in a variety of foods including legumes, nuts and seeds, wheat germ, fortified grain products such as bread, cereal, pasta, rice, and flour, and some meat and fish. Since benfotiamine is fat-soluble and appears to have higher bioavailability and absorption by the body than thiamine, some people use it to raise their thiamine levels and manage certain health conditions.

Uses of Benfotiamine

Thiamine deficiency is considered rare in the United States. People who mainly eat highly refined carbohydrates (such as white rice) or unfortified white flour products or avoid whole grains may be at greater risk for a thiamine deficiency. People with prolonged diarrhea, Crohn's disease, and alcohol dependency may also be at risk. Strenuous exercise and conditions like hyperthyroidism increase the body's demand for thiamine.

Thiamine deficiency requires medical treatment. It is linked to a range of health problems, including nerve, heart, and brain conditions (including a serious condition known as Wernicke's encephalopathy).

Proponents 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.

In addition, proponents also suggest that benfotiamine in supplement form may aid in the treatment of the following conditions:

The Benefits of Benfotiamine

To date, relatively few studies have examined the potential health benefits of taking benfotiamine supplements. Here's a look at some key study findings:

Diabetes

Benfotiamine may be of some benefit to people with diabetes. In a study published in Diabetes Care in 2006, for instance, people with type 2 diabetes consumed 1,050 mg of benfotiamine daily. Participants were given a meal high in AGEs before and after the three day period. Study results showed that benfotiamine appeared to protect against oxidative stress induced by dietary AGEs.

In a 2010 study published in Diabetes Care, 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 found that benfotiamine didn't significantly affect markers that lead to hyperglycemia-induced vascular complications.

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.

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 an improvement compared to their initial scans.

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 dosage of benfotiamine is presently unknown. If you're considering the supplement, talk with your health care provider to determine which, if any, amount 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 show promise for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and diabetic neuropathy, not all studies have found benefits. We can't be solid about the connection until large-scale clinical trials are conducted.

If you think you may have a thiamine deficiency, be sure to speak to your doctor immediately.

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 may also help.

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  • 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.