Fighting Diabetes With Benfotiamine
With 100 million plus diabetics and prediabetics in the U.S., and with all the health issues associated with poor blood sugar control, any fresh information about helpful supplements is always welcome news. That’s why the recent study published by the American Society of Nephrology, which focused on a relatively unknown vitamin, benfotiamine, demonstrating its kidney protecting effects against sugar, is so exciting.
Technically referred to as “glycation”, the damaging effect of glucose on the delicate renal circulatory system has long been regarded as one of the more significant health challenges faced by diabetics. According to the researchers from the nephrology department at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) who published the data, the B-vitamin benfotiamine may be a new weapon against glycation of the kidney and other tissues faced by so many unfortunate Americans.
Actually, it’s not so much a new weapon as it’s a recent twist on an old one. Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble version of vitamin B-1, the old standby nutrient for improving blood sugar health that is better known as thiamin. This slight biochemical modification allows benfotiamine to pass into the bloodstream through the digestive tract with much greater facility.
A study published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 1996 found that supplementation with benfotiamine resulted in blood levels 5 times higher than thiamine. Fat-solubility also allows benfotiamine to penetrate into cells more effectively. This may give it greater protective and restorative activities than its water-soluble cousin. Benfotiamine is a component of the allithiamines, a naturally occurring class of vitamins found in the allicin group of vegetables which includes garlic, shallots, onions and leeks.
First synthesized by Japanese scientists in 1962, benfotiamine is the considered the most potent of the allithiamines complex. After some initial excitement, when it was discovered that lab mice were able to tolerate over 20 times the amount of benfotiamine than regular vitamin B-1, enthusiasm for this intriguing nutrient faded. It wasn’t until 2003, when Dr. Michael Brownlee of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine published data that showed that benfotiamine blocked several destructive diabetic biochemical pathways that interest was reignited. Since then, attention to benfotiamine has increased dramatically and it’s now possible to obtain in supplemental form from numerous sources.
What’s even more interesting about thiamine’s fat soluble analogue, is that it’s not just diabetics who may benefit. Based on information gleaned from numerous studies and articles, benfotiamine may be helpful for improving numerous health conditions including sciatica, neuropathy, hypertension, accelerated aging, fibromyalgia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Benfotiamine is readily available in health food stores and via the internet and though there is no consensus on what’s the perfect daily dose, it’s recognized as safe and non-toxic. I would start off with a dose of 300mg a day and increase as needed until adequate benefits (e.g. blood sugar control, pain relief, improved cognition and memory) are achieved. As always, to achieve maximum B-vitamin benefit, when supplementing with one of the B’s, it’s important to include the entire complex in your nutritional supplement protocol.