Benfotiamine for neuropathy

Numerous trials have indicated that benfotiamine might  improve, but not cure the effects of nerve damage caused by diabetic peripheral neuropathy(DPN).

Benfotiamine itself is a lipid soluble analogue of thiamine, which has been linked to diabetic peripheral neuropathy. But thiamine supplementation has little success against DPN. Since benfotiamine appears to have better absorption by the body than thiamine, some people use it to raise their thiamine levels and manage certain health conditions.

One paper from Germany (1) said the results of their tests have “provided further evidence for the beneficial effects of benfotiamine in patients with diabetic neuropathy.”

Another study from Germay (2) mentioned benfotiamine (via vascular damage prevention) was evaluated in phase III clinical trials, but failed to gain US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval.

Earlier German researchers at the University of Giessen (3) concluded from their trial in 1995 and “reports in the literature support the contention that the neurotropic benfotiamine-vitamin B combination represents a starting point in the treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy.”

However in 2012 a group of researchers from Norway (4) found no difference among 67 patients who received either benfotiamine or a placebo in their long-term study.

“Our findings suggest that high-dose benfotiamine (300 mg/day) supplementation over 24 months has no significant effects upon peripheral nerve function or soluble markers of inflammation in patients with type 1 diabetes.”

A 2008 review (5) of previous research on whether vitamin B (benfotiamine) could help patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy reveal only a single trial out of 13 could claim a positive result.

“This review of 13 trials on diabetic and alcoholic peripheral neuropathy with a total of 741 participants showed only one study that suggested possible short‐term benefit from eight‐week treatment with benfotiamine (a derivative of vitamin B1) with slightly greater improvement in vibration perception threshold compared to placebo.”

Researchers from New York (6) in 2008 found that a mix of benfotiamine and alpha-lipoic acid works much better than benfotiamine alone.

“We determined fixed doses of benfotiamine in combination with slow-release alpha-lipoic acid normalise markers of reactive oxygen species-induced pathways of complications in humans.”

Benfotiamine can be purchased without a prescription and tried as a supplement under the supervision of a licensed practitioner to determine if it works for you.

Thiamine deficiency is considered rare in the United States.1 With that being said, people who mainly eat highly refined carbohydrates (such as white rice) or unfortified white flour products, or who avoid whole grains, may be at greater risk for a thiamine deficiency. Strenuous exercise and conditions like hyperthyroidism increase the body’s demand for thiamine, which can lead to a deficiency as well.

To date, relatively few studies have examined the potential health benefits of taking benfotiamine supplements. Here’s a look at some key study findings:

  1. Benfotiamine in the treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy
    Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther, 2005;Feb;43(2):71-7
  2. Burning through the pain: treatments for diabetic neuropathy
    World Journal of Diabetes, 2015;Dec;17(12):1115-25
  3. A Benfotiamine-vitamin B combination in treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy
    Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes, 1996;104(4):311-316
  4. The Effects of Long-Term Oral Benfotiamine Supplementation on Peripheral Nerve Function and Inflammatory Markers in Patients With Type 1 Diabetes
    Diabetes Care, 2012;Mar;DC_111895
  5. Vitamin B for treating peripheral neuropathy
    Cochrane Library
  6. Oral benfotiamine plus alpha-lipoic acid normalises complication-causing pathways in type 1 diabetes
    Diabetologia, 2008;51:1930–2

Another 2012 study on 67 patient in Sweden “suggest that high-dose benfotiamine (300 mg/day) supplementation over 24 months has no significant effects upon peripheral nerve function or soluble markers of inflammation in patients with type 1 diabetes.”

Any use of in a home rather than clinical setting of benfotiamine may lead to side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain

Needless to say, more research is still needed to assess it effectiveness and safety.