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Neurological Benefits from Benfotiamine
Fat-Soluble B1 Helps Stop and Reverse Neuropathy
Could it Also Help MS?
(By Christina White (modified from the Spring 2004 New Horizons)
As research into the value of specific nutrients increases, consumers become more able to address specific health ailments with very unique, targeted nutrients.
Vitamin B1 Absorption
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.
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. Although one study might not convince ‘doubting-Thomas’ types, there are now many double-blind, placebo-controlled human trials that have proven the nerve enhancing benefits of Benfotiamine in diabetic neuropathy.
Can Benfotiamine Benefit Other Nervous System Disorders?
Most of the clinical studies have focused on the results of supplemental benfotiamine for conditions like polyneuropathy, retinopathy or nephropathy, that develop from diabetes.
What kind of benefits can the general population gain from supplementing with vitamin B1? Are Americans deficient in vitamin B1?
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.
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.
Some of the symptoms of a vitamin B1 deficiency are:
*irritability and nervousness
*depression and moodiness
*tingling in arms and legs
*lack of concentration
A quick review of those symptoms sounds a lot like the symptoms that MS sufferer’s experience, except for the heart palpitations. As a matter of fact, there is a doctor who saw a connection between those B1 deficiency symptoms and the development of MS.
MS & B1: Dr. Klenner’s Protocol:
Back in 1973, Dr. Frederich R. Klenner, wrote a two-part, technical paper about the relationship of vitamin B1 and other B vitamins to the development and treatment of both MS and Myasthenia Gravis. He emphasized the importance of thiamin in these neurological diseases. He successfully treated many cases of MS with an aggressive injection protocol of B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B1 injections.
One paragraph regarding the use of B1 with MS patients really stands out from Dr. Klenner’s two-part, 15 page article, Response of Peripheral and Central Nerve Pathology to Mega Doses of the Vitamin B-Complex and Other Metabolites:
“In the late thirties, Stern from Columbia University, was employing thiamin hydrochloride intraspinally with astonishing results in Multiple Sclerosis. He reported taking patients to the operating room on a stretcher, and following 30 mg thiamin given intraspinally, they would walk back to their room. The response was relatively transient, but it led Stern to believe that Multiple Sclerosis was nothing more than vitamin B1 avitaminosis, the ‘modus operandi’ being damage to filter bed of the choroid plexus.”
Dr. Klenner’s protocol called for very high amounts of B1, both orally and by injection. Considering the difficulties in absorption and utilization of the regular water-soluble form of B1, thiamin, perhaps this fat-soluble form, benfotiamine, which has higher cellular absorption and utilization capabilities, might be a valuable part of a supplementation protocol for MS patients.
DOSAGES of Benfotiamine:
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.
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