Thiamine (Benfotiamine)

Benfotiamine: the TPP Solution
A special fat-soluble form of vitamin B1 called Benfotiamine (regular water-soluble B1 is called thiamin), has become available to consumers. Research has shown that this unique form called Benfotiamine can provide some protective and restorative actions not attainable from other forms of B1, or even from other supplements.

The truth is that human bodies are only able to absorb and utilize a small amount of the vitamin B1 (thiamin) available in supplements. It turns out that no matter how much regular thiamin anyone takes, the blood plasma levels don't increase significantly beyond the first 12 milligrams of the dose.

This means it is very difficult to obtain high enough plasma levels of thiamin to treat specific health disorders by using oral dosages of regular thiamin. In an attempt to overcome this problem, some doctors are using quick injections of B1, or even long infusions of B vitamins along with vitamin C and minerals. It turns out that it is not the amount of B1 available, but the form of it that makes the difference.

Benfotiamine: A Unique Allithiamine
Benfotiamine is one of a unique class of thiamin-based compounds, called allithiamines, that are found in trace amounts in vegetables from the Allium genus family, such as roasted crushed garlic, onions, shallots and leeks.

Due to a unique open-ringed chemical structure, Benfotiamine is able to directly pass through the intestinal wall and easily enters into the cell. One research abstract, Pharmacokinetics of thiamine derivatives especially of Benfotiamine (Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 1996 Feb; 34(2): 47-50, reports that supplementation with Benfotiamine results in plasma levels 5 times higher than water-soluble thiamin. Benfotiamine's bioavailability is also better than any of the other fat-based, or lipid thiamin derivatives of the allithiamine family. The above abstract summarizes its usefulness with the statement, "Due to its excellent pharmacokinetic profile Benfotiamine should be preferred in treatment of relevant indications."

Not only is the plasma level of Benfotiamine 5 times higher than water-soluble thiamin, but the amount that is absorbed into specific cellular tissues such as the brain or muscle tissue can be five to twenty-five times more than regular thiamin. This gives Benfotiamine the ability to provide a powerful benefit when there appears to be a need for increased B1, such as in neurological disorders or cardiovascular disease.

What is Benfotiamine ?
Benfotiamine is a lipid-soluble form of thiamine (vitamin B-1). It was developed in Japan in the early 1960's to treat alcoholic neuritis. It is the most effective metabolic precursor of active thiamine, or vitamin B1, available. Though Benfotiamine is lipid-soluble, it metabolizes quickly, producing high levels of thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP, the active form of thiamine), which then continues to metabolize in the body as usual.

Where it is found
Some of the best natural food sources for vitamin B1 are from: whole grain products, whole rice, wheat germ, brewer's yeast, egg yolk, peanuts, bananas, sunflower seeds. The special, fat-soluble, food-form of B1 called Benfotiamine is only obtained from crushed garlic, onions, leeks and shallots.

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Benefits / uses
Benfotiamine Helps Neuropathy

In fact, although new to the American nutritional market, Benfotiamine has been used in Germany for ten years to treat diabetic neuropathy, as well as sciatica and other nerve related problems.

Diabetic neuropathy is a notoriously difficult health problem to treat, showing very little improvement, even with alternative protocols. Benfotiamine supplementation may be the most effective protocol to date, and one that has been proven in clinical studies. Several human studies have demonstrated a reversal in diabetic neuropathy, with improved nerve function and reduction of pain.

Although various dosages of Benfotiamine were all shown to result in improvements, one study with 3 groups of diabetics with polyneuropathy who were given various dosages (150 mg or more), found the larger dose (320 mg/day) to be more effective. This study looked at five parameters of neuropathy: pain sensation, vibration sensation, and electrical current perception threshold at three frequencies.

Other Nervous System Disorders
Vitamin B1 is often called the 'nerve vitamin' because it is so intimately involved with the health of the nervous system. Although it is very rare to see the extreme form of B1 deficiency in our country, people who drink a lot of alcohol or live on excessive amounts of depleted, highly processed foods like white bread and sugary cereals, might not obtain adequate amounts. Large amounts of vitamin B1 are used up in metabolizing carbohydrates to produce energy, so a high carbohydrate diet can contribute to creating a deficiency state of B1.

Prevents memory loss
Benfotiamine supplements have proven useful for people who drink alcohol regularly. Consumption of alcohol usually depletes thiamin levels in one's body, which can cause side effects such as impaired awareness, muscle weakness, apathy, fatigue, disorientation and lethargy.

Good for diabetes
Studies show that Benfotiamine works effectively to help prevent the production of AGEs, popularly referred to as Advanced Glycation End Products. Although AGEs are usually found in our bodies, they tend to accumulate in diabetic patients leading to further complications. Therefore, consumption of Benfotiamine supplements is recommended for diabetics.

Boosts cardiovascular health
Benfotiamine supplements also improve cellular health and cardiovascular health. They also help improve nerve health, reduce high blood pressure, treat fibromyalgia and prevent build-up of lactic acid after strenuous activity.

In some studies, the participants were started at an initial high dose of 340 mg or even as high as 600 mg for several weeks, and then the doses might be gradually reduced to a maintenance level. Many people prefer the idea of starting at a lower dose, 100 to 150 mg a day, and then gradually increasing the dose over a period of weeks or months. The indications are that Benfotiamine is safe at reasonable daily doses, and people will have to determine what dose provides the maximum neurological benefits for them.

When to take/Types to take
Vitamin B1 supplements are best taken with a meal.
Commercially, vitamin B-1, is available as thiamine hydrochloride or thiamine mononitrate. Thiamine hydrochloride is derived from acetic acid (from the distillation of wood). Thiamine mononitrate is prepared from thiamine hydrochloride by removing the hydrochloride and substituting nitric acid. Either form provides a reliable sourece of vitamin B-1.

Possible Side effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions:
Benfotiamine supplements have a perfect safety record. In fact, there are no known side effects liked to it or interactions with medication. On the contrary, some drugs actually cause thiamine deficiency and Benfotiamine can help to correct the situation.
Symptoms of excessive dosing could include a feeling of warmth, weakness, sweating, nausea, restlessness, difficulty breathing, tightness of the throat or even bluish colored skin.

Research studies / References

Articles and Abstracts Regarding Benfotiamine Research

Brownlee article (Topics: neuropathy, arterial endothelial cells, sciatica, retinopathy, nephropathy.)

Hammes article (Topic: blocks damage pathways.)

Winkler article (Topic: painful neuropathy.)

Greb article (Topic: bioavailability.)

Haupte article (Topic: polyneuropathy.)

Anisimova article (Topic: alcoholic polyneuropathy.)

Lindeman article (Topic: diabetic polyneuropathy.)

Stracke article (Topic: effectiveness of multi-B formula.)

Brownlee Abstract 148 (Main topic: retinopathy.)

Chous article (Main topic: diabetic retinopathy.)

Danilov article (Main topic: polyneuropathy.)

Stracke article (Main topic: peripheral nerve function.)

Babaei-Jadidi article (Main topic: nephropathy.)

Simeonov Abstract (Main topic: relief of pain in diabetic peripheral neuropathy.)

Benfotiamine Study Abstracts and Product Summary (Various clinical trials and a discussion of Benfotiamine's physiological effects.)