Benfotiamine is a synthetic version of thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, which is essential for many of the body’s functions including strengthening the immune system and protecting the brain.
Scientists have recently discovered that benfotiamine is especially useful for protecting the body from the harmful byproducts of too much sugar and improving symptoms of diabetes and cognitive dysfunction and dementia from Alzheimer’s disease and other causes.
Study Shows Benfotiamine Protects the Brain
A groundbreaking study has shown that a dietary supplement called benfotiamine could improve cognition in Alzheimer’s patients.1
What makes this study so exciting is not just benfotiamine’s ability to improve cognitive function, but how the authors of the study believe it worked: by improving the brain’s glucose metabolism and protecting against its harmful effects on the brain,1 as research increasingly has shown that elevated blood sugar impacts the brain and can lead to cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s.2-8
Data from this study—as well as a host of other human, lab, and animal studies—suggest that this novel approach to Alzheimer’s could open a new front in our fight against cognition-robbing neurodegenerative diseases.
Pre-Diabetes Is Your Early Warning Sign
Blood sugar that swings too high (insulin resistance) can cause brain fog and other symptoms like fatigue after meals, constant hunger, cravings for sweets not relieved by eating them, constant thirst, frequent urination, difficulty falling asleep, and a big belly.
|Result||Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG)|
|Normal||less than 100 mg/dl|
|Prediabetes||100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl|
|Diabetes||126 mg/dl or higher|
Most people have blood-sugar levels that are higher than optimal, even if they are technically below the threshold for diagnosable diabetes. This is called prediabetes, which the American Diabetes Association defines as fasting blood sugar between 100 to 125 mg/dL.24
Prediabetes is now recognized to be associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.25-27
Scientists Are Calling Alzheimer’s Disease “Type 3 Diabetes”
Chronically high insulin levels in the blood can lead to higher inflammation in blood vessel walls. This inflammation affects circulation, leads to more rapid aging; and is a known factor in the development of Type 2 diabetes.
As a matter of fact, researchers are calling Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes because of its relationship to elevated blood glucose and insulin.
Treating Alzheimer’s is Challenging
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most feared of all age-related conditions. To date, no drug therapy has been shown to alter the course of Alzheimer’s, much less prevent it.
Despite millions of dollars and decades of research spent on Alzheimer’s disease, the only drugs available for Alzheimer’s are those that may reduce symptoms. There is no treatment that meaningfully alters the course and progression of the disease.1
In fact, no new drugs of any kind have been approved for use in Alzheimer’s in nearly 15 years.9,10
During that time, however, we’ve learned a lot more about the underlying factors in Alzheimer’s disease—especially the impact of chronically elevated blood sugar.11
Connecting the dots between Alzheimer’s disease and the damage caused by high blood sugar highlighted a solution that had been sitting under researchers’ noses all along: an especially potent form of vitamin B1 called benfotiamine.
Benfotiamine Blocks Glucose-Induced Brain Dysfunction
Thiamine (vitamin B1) is profoundly involved in maintaining healthy brain function.12 It is an absolute requirement for normal cellular growth and function and vital metabolic processes.13,14
A deficiency in thiamine impacts most organs in the body, but it is especially damaging to the brain. There, it triggers a cascade of events that lead to oxidative stress and inflammation—which are major contributors to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other dementia-producing disorders.13
Researchers have used experimental thiamine deficiency for years to model many of these age-related brain diseases, and research shows that a deficiency in thiamine leads to many of the same brain abnormalities associated with those disorders.13
In addition to its known importance in brain function, benfotiamine, a synthetic derivative of thiamine, has the dual ability to help with sugar metabolism while also helping protect against the damage caused by elevated blood sugar1,15—two properties that make it an ideal candidate for intervening in glucose-induced brain dysfunction.
Because of these findings, scientists wanted to determine whether supplementation with benfotiamine might be of use in preventing, slowing, or reversing some of the underlying factors that contribute to neurodegenerative disorders.
A team of researchers recently took an important first step to answering that question …
Breakthrough Study – Benfotiamine Benefits Cognitive Impairment
The good news is that supplementation with benfotiamine has been shown to improve cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers performed a pilot study to determine whether or not benfotiamine would have a beneficial impact on cognitive impairment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.1 A pilot study is essentially a small-scale trial run to find out if there’s enough evidence to warrant a larger-scale study.
The study included five patients who were suffering from mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. They had detectable cognitive decline as measured by the standard Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE), a 30-point scale that measures cognitive function.
Prior to any treatment, patients underwent a specialized type of PET scan (positron emission tomography) that can predict progression of Alzheimer’s disease and detect the toxic Alzheimer’s protein beta-amyloid.
All subjects showed evidence of beta-amyloid. This damaging protein builds up in the brain, where it triggers brain inflammation, imposes oxidative stress, and has been closely associated with changes caused by long-term exposure to excessive blood glucose.
Subjects received 300 mg of benfotiamine per day over the course of 18 months. At the end of the study period, they retook the Mini-Mental Status Examination and the PET scan to see if the benfotiamine supplementation led to any improvements.
The results were impressive:
Every single patient demonstrated cognitive improvement on the MMSE (with an average increase of nearly 19%).
This study demonstrates for the first time how a low-cost nutritional supplement can improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease victims.1
How Benfotiamine Protects The Brain
- Alzheimer’s disease is now being referred to as “type III diabetes” because of its close connection with the effects of chronically elevated blood-sugar levels.
- Studies show that excessive blood glucose damages the endothelial lining of blood vessels, a factor that can contribute to cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
- Endothelial dysfunction and the changes associated with high blood glucose are known to alarmingly raise the risk of cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- The connection between the effects of excessive blood sugar and dementia offers an entirely new approach to prevention: the use of natural supplements that can shield the body from the harmful effects of AGEs, and prevent the harm they could do to the blood vessels and the brain.
- Benfotiamine, a highly bioavailable form of vitamin B1, has many properties that may help explain how it was able to improve cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
- A groundbreaking clinical study found that supplementation with benfotiamine improved cognitive function scores in individuals with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s.
- A natural product with a long safety record, benfotiamine belongs on the short list of supplements recommended for maintaining brain health well into old age.
Benfotiamine Supplements for Dementia
Given all these impressive results, there is now excellent evidence that benfotiamine supplementation may reduce and prevent many of the problems that lead to cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease — particularly among diabetics and prediabetics.
Other Benfotiamine Benefits
Benfotiamine Improves Diabetic Neuropathy
Previous studies on benfotiamine may have predicted this favorable result, as shown by studies of people with two common conditions that serve as useful models of accelerated aging: diabetes and alcohol dependence.
In both cases, cognitive impairment appears early, and both conditions significantly raise the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.16,17
One especially relevant area of this clinical research has been in diabetic neuropathy, a painful, debilitating, and typically irreversible condition in which nerves throughout the body become damaged. A randomized controlled trial found that taking 400 mg/day of benfotiamine for three weeks significantly reduced pain and neuropathy.18
In a study of 165 diabetic patients with neuropathy, benfotiamine for 6 weeks improved nerve damage.
This is an excellent example of benfotiamine’s ability to help protect nerve tissues in diabetics.
Benfotiamine Protects the Kidneys
In a pilot study, benfotiamine enhanced the antioxidant defenses and reduced DNA damage in 15 hemodialysis patients.
Benfotiamine Helps Curb Alcoholism
People with alcohol dependency also display rapid acceleration of brain aging. This is because excessive alcohol leads to thiamine deficiency.12,17
Two clinical trials have now shown that benfotiamine supplementation (600 mg/day) reduces alcohol consumption (a sign of reduced impulsivity) and improves psychiatric distress.19,20 These may be very important findings for people with Alzheimer’s who often suffer from increased impulsivity.21
Benfotiamine Reduces Harmful Effects of Smoking
Smoking increases inflammation and oxidative stress in blood vessels, which can eventually lead to blood vessel dysfunction. Benfotiamine supplementation reduced these harmful effects by half in 20 participants.
Benfotiamine May Inhibit Cancer Growth
Benfotiamine inhibited the growth of leukemic tumors in cell studies by facilitating cell death and enhancing the effects of chemotherapy.
Benfotiamine May Speed Up Cardiac Recovery
By enhancing the growth of new blood vessels and decreasing the rate of cell death in mouse hearts, benfotiamine improved the rate of recovery after a heart attack.
Benfotiamine May Reduce Inflammation
Benfotiamine prevented cell death and inflammation due to bacterial toxins in mouse immune cells.
To summarize, studies over the past decade have revealed astonishing connections between Alzheimer’s disease and the damaging changes associated with blood-glucose elevations, leading some experts to consider Alzheimer’s as type III diabetes. Recognizing the blood sugar/dementia connection suggests a new use for a proven supplement, benfotiamine.
With previous studies and a recent human study has showing that supplementation with 300 mg/day of benfotiamine produced significant cognitive improvement over 18 months, scientists have learned that:
- Benfotiamine acts by preventing the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), fighting oxidative stress, and thereby reducing inflammatory processes that contribute to dementia.
- Benfotiamine is a highly bioavailable form of thiamine, or vitamin B1, which has a known track record of safety and effectiveness in metabolic disorders.
- Benfotiamine represents a powerful way to help protect nerves, blood vessels, and the brain from damaging effects associated with elevated blood glucose.
For Alzheimer’s, benfotiamine is an exciting discovery because it has been shown to improve the cognitive abilities of patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s Disease, and to prevent the accumulation of plaques through the reduction of GSK3.
Is it worth taking Benfotiamin supplements to protect your brain?
Of course, only you can decide if any supplement is right for you (check with your doctor, too).
But, I think it bears repeating, that benfotiamin is natural product with a long safety record. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that benfotiamine belongs on the short list of supplements recommended for maintaining brain health well into old age, and I’m taking it.
Let me know what you think below.
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- Pan X, Chen Z, Fei G, et al. Long-Term Cognitive Improvement After Benfotiamine Administration in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Neurosci Bull. 2016;32(6):591-6.
- Alam F, Islam MA, Sasongko TH, et al. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Alzheimer’s Disease: Bridging the Pathophysiology and Management. Curr Pharm Des. 2016;22(28):4430-42.
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- Available at: www.alz.org/research/science/alzheimers_disease_treatments.asp. Accessed January 15, 2018.
- Available at: https://www.alzheimers.net/6-1-15-sweet-tooth-risk-for-alzheimers/. Accessed January 4, 2018.
- Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/thiamin. Accessed January 4, 2018.
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- Knutson KM, Dal Monte O, Schintu S, et al. Areas of Brain Damage Underlying Increased Reports of Behavioral Disinhibition. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2015;27(3):193-8.
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