Vitamins are essential nutrients that perform a variety of roles in our body. They are organic and required in tiny amounts. Currently, there are 13 recognized vitamins. These include Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, C, D, E, and K.
But in this blog post, we will only learn about Vitamin B1 and its derivative Benfotiamine. It is a vitamin that every diabetic should take. It’s inexpensive, readily available, and vital for diabetics. You will be surprised to hear how thiamine deficiency can affect blood sugar metabolism. Let’s dive into it in this blog post.
Table of Contents
What is Thiamine?
Thiamine is vitamin B1. Its chemical name is Thiamine. It is a water-soluble vitamin. It plays an essential role in energy metabolism. Thiamine is found in yeast, cereal grains, seeds, brown rice, whole grain cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver, and eggs.
Why do Diabetics need Thiamine?
Thiamine is responsible for the utilization of glucose and energy metabolism. It is essential for producing various enzymes that help in the breakdown of blood sugar. Thiamine is beneficial for complications of diabetes. But the main problem with diabetics is that they excrete a lot of Thiamine in the urine. That’s why they become Thiamine deficient.
Why is Thiamine extremely important for diabetics?
The human body is complex biological machinery, and it uses food as fuel. The food contains a lot of stored chemical energy. When we eat food, our body breaks it into smaller components and makes glucose. Mitochondria turn glucose into ATP. Mitochondria are also the main sites for ATP synthesis. They are also known as the powerhouse of the cells. ATP is an energy molecule and is also called energy currency. This supplies energy for hundreds of biochemical reactions and cellular processes.
Diabetes is a disease that affects the processing of blood glucose. Diabetic patients are unable to use this excess blood glucose. So, when there is a lot of glucose. Unfortunately, mitochondria become overloaded. Then, glucose rushes into the cells. Glucose needs to be converted into energy. However, mitochondria can’t convert this much glucose into energy and become overloaded. In response to glucose overloading, the backup happens and leads to other pathways in the body. It further causes vascular and endothelial damage.
Glucose overloading causes vascular and endothelial damage.
In simple words, excess blood glucose causes severe damage in diabetics. It is also the main reason for complications of diabetes, including blindness, kidney diseases, neuropathy, and so forth.
What is Benfotiamine?
Now let’s discuss a derivative of Thiamine that is also being used as Diabetes medication. It is called Benfotiamine; a fat-soluble thiamin derivative, which you can find in the vitamin B complex. The body absorbs Benfotiamine and uses it as an alternative to vitamin B1 when other B vitamins are not well-absorbed. It is also a safe alternative for people who have difficulty absorbing thiamin from a regular diet.
People use Benfotiamine as an alternative medicine for many years. It can treat diabetic neuropathy, which a common diabetes complication. A person wtih diabetic neuropathy experiences pain and numbness in the extremities. More recently, they discovered that Benfotiamine has protective effects on nerves exposed to high glucose levels. It has the ability to lower elevated blood sugar by inhibiting transketolase activity.
Some patients suffering from mild chronic fatigue also find Benfotiamine helpful. It raises energy levels without producing jittery side effects or making you feel hyperactive.
Also, Benfotiamine improves overall antioxidant status, reduces oxidative damage, and reduces blood-clotting time. It also helps increase the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD), reducing the risk of heart disease.
What Food contains Benfotiamine?
Because Benfotiamine is fat-soluble, you can find it in significant amounts only in foods that are rich in fat and oils. These include:
- Whole wheat bread
- Orange juice
- Egg yolk
- Chicken liver
- Wheat Bran
- Tuna Fish
- Turkey Meat
- Royal Jelly
Insulin resistance and Role of Thiamine/Benfotiamine in Diabetes
Insulin resistance is one of the biggest reasons for thiamine deficiency as well. So, when you are insulin resistant, even if you eat Thiamine in your food, you may still end up being Thiamine deficient. This condition further ends up damaging your cells.
Why are some cells affected by high glucose but not others?
Unfortunately, this phenomenon is that some cells are not able to stop glucose entry into the cells. Typically when glucose rushes in, the cells decide whether to take the glucose in or not. But some cells do not have that liberty, and they just let sugar coming in. As a result, the kidney cells, eye cells, and nerve cells are more susceptible to damage. That’s why people with diabetes are more vulnerable to suffer from neuropathy, blindness, and kidney failure.
How does Thiamine prevent diabetes complications?
Thiamine is essential in the prevention of complications of diabetes. When you have enough Thiamine, it will help your body to process that sugar and prevent damage to your cells. Transketolase enzyme needs thiamine as a cofactor.
Erythrocyte Transketolase and Thiamine deficiency
Erythrocyte Transketolase is an important enzyme in the process of energy production from glucose. It needs Thiamine as a cofactor. It means Thiamine is also essential for the proper functioning of Transketolase. Similarly, when there is thiamine deficiency due to eating foods high in carbohydrates and alcohol consumption. These factors will reduce thiamine absorption from your intestine and also increase thiamine excretion.
Benfotiamine Mechanism of Action
Benfotiamine seems to inhibit several enzymes involved in glucose metabolism. The enzymes are upregulated by high blood sugar levels. These include transketolase, which metabolizes glucose into MPTP (which can cause cellular injury and death), and glucose-6-phosphatase, which metabolizes glucose into glycogen.
Benfotiamine also prevents the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the body. This occurs when high blood sugar levels react with proteins to form harmful substances. It also has direct antioxidant activity and the ability to stop the oxidation of fats and oils. This is very important because oxidized cholesterol can cause damage to cells throughout the body.
Thiamine/Benfotiamine is beneficial to prevent diabetes complications
Thiamine is also extremely beneficial for neuropathy. Even if you have nerve complications, taking 600 milligrams of Benfotiamine will help your nerve pain dramatically. Similarly, it will also help you with eye disease and kidney disease.
Why people with diabetes should take Benfotiamine
Thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin. So, it is not suitable for easy absorption. Another problem is that people with diabetes excrete a lot of Thiamine in the urine. That’s why I recommend you take Benfotiamine. It is better because it’s a fat-soluble version of Thiamine. Your body will also absorb it better. The reason behind the high absorption of Benfotiamine is that our body cells are composed of cholesterol coreso , fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in our fat cells for a long time as compared to water-soluble vitamins.
Benfotiamine is helpful in the treatment of painful neuropathy caused by diabetes. Patients with diabetic neuropathy are often advised to follow a low carbohydrate and protein diet but high in good fats.
As a fat-soluble form of vitamin B1, Benfotiamine can help protect nerves from damage caused by elevated blood glucose levels. A few studies have also found Benfotiamine to be effective at reducing or eliminating diabetic neuropathy pain.
Other studies note that Benfotiamine supplements may be helpful for other medical conditions related to oxidative stress. This includes stroke prevention, cholesterol control, peripheral vascular disease, periodontal disease reduction, and prevention of age-related hearing loss.
One study found that Benfotiamine supplements helped reduce oxidative stress, heart inflammation, and plaque build-up, all risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis.
Benfotiamine helps prevent periodontal disease by reducing inflammation in gums. It is decreasing plaque accumulation on teeth. However, there is not enough clinical studies yet to support this.
Benfotiamine may also positively affect cognitive function because it is a precursor of thiamin diphosphate (TDP). TDP is a molecule involved in cell signaling pathways that have an essential role in memory formation.
The vast majority of Benfotiamine researches are on diabetic patients with neuropathy. Still, those suffering from the other conditions listed above may also benefit from this supplement. As always, speak with your doctor before starting any new treatment or medication.
Benfotiamine Side Effects and Precautions
Benfotiamine is generally safe when used in recommended doses. The most common side effects are gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, flatulence, and heartburn.
Several studies state that Benfotiamine increases uric acid levels by promoting cell death in liver cells while lowering blood glucose levels. Because of this finding, there could be a risk associated with chronic use of this drug. Such as the risk of scaling or cirrhosis in the liver.
Benfotiamine causes DNA fragmentation and lipid peroxidation at toxic doses, indicating there may be a potential for toxicity with chronic use.
Benfotiamine should never be taken by people who are allergic to thiamin (vitamin B1). In addition, anyone taking calcium channel blockers like verapamil, diltiazem, or nifedipine should not take Benfotiamine because it can interact with these drugs.
Benfotiamine can be taken with other medications without problems; it may even help some drugs work better. Like many other drugs, this supplement should not be combined with alcohol and should not be taken by people who are pregnant or breastfeeding without first consulting their healthcare professional.
Benfotiamine is available in pill and powder form, as well as injectable fluid. Pills are usually the cheapest way to get this supplement. However, most brands of Benfotiamine pills vary in form, so there may be some quality differences between them, and it’s hard to know how many of the active ingredients you’ll get.
You can also purchase Benfotiamine in liquid form injected into muscles or under the skin using a syringe (like insulin injections). The advantage of getting Benfotiamine by injection is that you can easily measure how much you’re taking and control your dose more precisely. In addition, if you take very high doses of this drug (upwards of 300 mg per day), it may be more effective to get injections because the body will absorb higher doses of Benfotiamine than can be taken in pill form.
Benfotiamine comes as a powdered extract of yeast cells or as pills with pre-dissolved powder. Both forms are available over the counter and seem to work about equally well.
Studies state that Benfotiamine if given intravenously (through a vein), its effects last longer than when taken orally (by mouth).
The recommended dosage of Benfotiamine depends on the condition you need to treat. The range is 50 to 300 mg/day depending on the condition, although several studies require higher doses.
Research shows that results usually need about two weeks of treatment with this drug to show improvement. The majority of studies on Benfotiamine use 300mg/day doses. Since it may take several weeks for this supplement to build up in the tissues, a it may take few months of therapy before noticeable results.
Benfotiamine is well accepted because it is non-toxic even at high doses. But, anything that is in excess is dangerous. At toxic doses, Benfotiamine causes liver cell death through lipid peroxidation and DNA fragmentation, indicating there may be a risk for toxicity with chronic use. There have also been reports of allergic reactions, that is why it is good to start in low doses first and see how your body reacts before taking higher amounts.
Taking Benfotiamine as a Supplement
There have not been any studies on the safety of taking Benfotiamine every day long term, and so most people take this drug intermittently (1-2 times per week or month) rather than every day. Starting with an intermittent schedule, there are no known side effects associated with acute doses of up to 300mg/day.
However, toxic effects may start to show up at higher doses, including DNA fragmentation and lipid peroxidation. If you choose to take this drug every day long term, it may be a good idea to cycle it. You can take a week or two off from taking it every so often. Also, be sure to monitor any changes in your health. Avoid sudden stop if you’ve been using this drug regularly for more than a few months.
How Long Does it Take to See Results from Using Benfotiamine?
On average, studies show that Benfotiamine relieves pain after two weeks of treatment. After a couple of weeks, you can feel the improvement in sensation and peripheral nerve function.
However, as with any new diabetes treatment, it is vital to check beta-cell function and glucose levels before and after starting Benfotiamine. If you have pain in your nerves, do not take this drug without first checking with your doctor.
Not all supplements work for everyone or in every condition, and the results of a particular treatment may vary from person to person. If you are interested in using Benfotiamine for a particular condition, consult with your healthcare professional or dietician to determine the best dosage.
Success Stories from Patients who used Benfotiamine for Health Problems
Here are some patient success stories from other websites:
“I had injections of Benfotiamine into my knees and found it relieved the pain in my joints.”
“My mom used Benfotiamine for her teeth problems, and it seemed to help her.”
“I find Benfotiamine tablets beneficial for my dry eyes.”
“Benfotiamine has helped my lower back pain.”
“I had a bout of shingles and found that Benfotiamine was helpful with the itching and some discomfort I was having.”
“I had painful neuropathy in my toes, fingers, and knees.” –
“Benfotiamine helped me deal with the pain of knee osteoarthritis .”
“My Doctor recommended I take Benfotiamine to help repair my damaged nerve endings.”
“I was thrilled when Benfotiamine started helping my diabetes. I haven’t been able to come off insulin completely yet but am working on it!”
“Benfotiamine seemed to help with some symptoms of early MS.”
Further Studies on Benfotiamine
Studies are ongoing to find out if Benfotiamine can be a potential drug to relieve severe pain. If proven, this can reduce the need for opioid drugs in cancer patients. It may also help people recover from stroke and heart attack by improving blood flow and reducing symptoms of angina, including chest pain.
To conclude, Benfotiamine is a promising drug in treating symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes, neuropathy, and other conditions. Though there are no known side effects from acute use, this supplement should only be used in some instances under close medical supervision.
Benfotiamine and its derivatives have shown excellent results for endothelial function, neuropathy, kidney diseases, and diabetic complications. Thiamine likely prevent the progression of complications—that is why it is crucial for diabetics.
Always take your physician’s consent before using any supplement. Only use FDA-registered products. Always consume a balanced diet and regularly monitor your blood sugar. Strongly consider adding exercise to your lifestyle.