Benfotiamine is a dietary supplement that is converted in the body to thiamine (vitamin B1). Thiamine helps your body turn nutrients into energy and is essential for brain function. Some people use benfotiamine to raise thiamine levels because it is considered to be highly bioavailable.This means that it reaches the bloodstream quickly and produces high levels of thiamine in the body.
Because it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, benfotiamine may also be helpful for diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain) and Alzheimer’s disease.
Health benefits of benfotiamine
1. Diabetic neuropathy
Benfotiamine therapy appears to be a potential strategy for preventing diabetic nephropathy, a severe complication of diabetes, associated with a high risk of heart disease and mortality. High glucose concentrations lead to an accumulation of triosephosphates; this leads to biochemical dysfunction and ultimately the development of diabetic nephropathy.
Preclinical studies in rats have shown that benfotiamine prevents the accumulation of triosephosphates in diabetes and hence inhibit the development of nephropathy.
2. Cognitive improvement in Alzheimer’s disease
Preclinical studies have demonstrated that benfotiamine confers beneficial effects on cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease. Benfotiamine has been shown to reduce amyloid deposition in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. However, these effects have not been proved in humans beings. A phase II clinical trial is currently assessing whether benfotiamine can halt cognitive decline in patients with mild cognitive impairment.
3. Overcoming alcohol dependence
Chronic alcohol intake is associated with severe deficiency of vital nutrients and vitamins. Alcoholism-related thiamine deficiency are characterised by neurological syndromes due to progressive loss of central and peripheral white matter. Although thiamine replacement is important for patients with alcohol-induced central nervous system damage, benfotiamine has not proven effective in crossing into the central nervous system from the periphery.
4. Benfotiamine for smoking
Smoking leads to endothelial dysfunction, an early event in cardiovascular disease. This is exacerbated by oxidative stress and inflammation. In a preclinical study on rats, benfotiamine was found to prevent nicotine-induced vascular dysfunction. A trial conducted on healthy volunteers has demonstrated that short-term treatment with benfotiamine can partly restore macrovascular function in healthy smokers.
5. Kidney protection
Data from studies in rat suggest that benfotiamine confers protective action to the peritoneal membrane and remnant kidney in peritoneal dialysis and uremia. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the addition of benfotiamine into the diet leads to increased transketolase activity and decreased expression of advanced glycation end products and their receptor.
A study by Ustuner et al. published in Tissue and Cell found that benfotiamine supplement may be helpful in attenuating antibiotic-induced nephrotoxicity via the amelioration of oxidative stress and inflammation of renal tubular cells.
6. Antitumor potential
In vitro studies suggest that benfotiamine may halt leukaemia by a mechanism termed paraptosis cell death. Paraptosis is a type of programmed cell death which involves cytoplasmic vacuole formation. A cell culture study by researchers of the Kanazawa University in Japan found that benfotiamine is a promising agent for acute myeloid leukemia patients who are not eligible for standard chemotherapy. They also observed that benfotiamine showed synergistic activity with cytarabine, a chemotherapeutic agent, to eliminate myeloid leukemia cells.
7. Antioxidant properties
Benfotiamine is also a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that are produced through inhibition of prostaglandin and leukotriene synthesis.