Benfotiamine Improves Cognition in Alzheimer’s PatientsApril 2018
By Richard Helena
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.
A groundbreaking study published in 2016 showed that a dietary supplement called benfotiamine could improve cognition in Alzheimer’s patients.1
What makes this study 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
Increasingly, research 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.
Challenges in Treating Alzheimer’s
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, we’ve learned a lot more about the underlying factors in Alzheimer’s disease—especially the impact of chronically elevated blood sugar.11 The connection is so strong that many scientists are now referring to Alzheimer’s disease as “type III diabetes.”2-8
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.
A Brain-Protecting Vitamin
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.
Cognitive Improvements in Alzheimer’s Patients
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
The study provided new insight into the possibility that benfotiamine might have a significant beneficial impact for Alzheimer’s patients, and definitely warrants a larger-scale study in the future.
Benfotiamine’s Track Record
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
This is an excellent example of benfotiamine’s ability to help protect nerve tissues in diabetics.
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
The Impact of Elevated Sugar on the Brain
To appreciate benfotiamine’s benefits, it’s helpful to understand how elevated blood sugar impacts the brain.
Growing evidence supports a strong link between elevated glucose levels in the brain and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.22,23 Many people don’t realize that you don’t have to have diabetes to develop the glucose-induced brain dysfunction that eventually produces Alzheimer’s.
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
The good news is that supplementation with benfotiamine has been shown to improve cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Protection Against Blood-Sugar Damage
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.
Since many people may find the lifestyle changes that would help prevent the formation of AGEs quite difficult, something as simple as taking benfotiamine can help shield our bodies from their damaging effects.
Higher doses of thiamine (achievable through the use of benfotiamine), have been recommended in order to avoid diabetic complications.
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.
A new human study has shown that supplementation with 300 mg/day of benfotiamine produced significant cognitive improvement over 18 months.
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 simply 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.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
- 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.
- Kandimalla R, Thirumala V, Reddy PH. Is Alzheimer’s disease a Type 3 Diabetes? A critical appraisal. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2017;1863(5):1078-89.
- Leszek J, Trypka E, Tarasov VV, et al. Type 3 Diabetes Mellitus: A Novel Implication of Alzheimers Disease. Curr Top Med Chem. 2017;17(12):1331-5.
- Li X, Song D, Leng SX. Link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease: from epidemiology to mechanism and treatment. Clin Interv Aging. 2015;10:549-60.
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- Rizvi SM, Shaikh S, Waseem SM, et al. Role of anti-diabetic drugs as therapeutic agents in Alzheimer’s disease. EXCLI J. 2015;14:684-96.
- Godyn J, Jonczyk J, Panek D, et al. Therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s disease in clinical trials. Pharmacol Rep. 2016;68(1):127-38.
- 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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- Balakumar P, Rohilla A, Krishan P, et al. The multifaceted therapeutic potential of benfotiamine. Pharmacol Res. 2010;61(6):482-8.
- Pomero F, Molinar Min A, La Selva M, et al. Benfotiamine is similar to thiamine in correcting endothelial cell defects induced by high glucose. Acta Diabetol. 2001;38(3):135-8.
- Fan YC, Hsu JL, Tung HY, et al. Increased dementia risk predominantly in diabetes mellitus rather than in hypertension or hyperlipidemia: a population-based cohort study. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2017;9(1):7.
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- Manzardo AM, Pendleton T, Poje A, et al. Change in psychiatric symptomatology after benfotiamine treatment in males is related to lifetime alcoholism severity. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;152:257-63.
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