You might be wondering what Benfotiamine and Thiamine are and what they do to our bodies. If you don’t already know, Benfotiamine is actually just a laboratory-developed version of Vitamin B1—which is also known as Thiamine.

In this article, we will carefully cover all there is to know about Benfotiamine vs Thiamine. We will discuss their various uses, potential adverse effects, and more. So without further ado, let’s try to find out more about these two close variations of vitamin B1.

What is Benfotiamine?

For starters, let’s first discuss Benfotiamine. As we mentioned earlier, Benfotiamine is a chemical substance closely related to Thiamine or vitamin B1. Technically, they’re the same thing except for the fact that Benfotiamine went through some laboratory enhancements. And due to those alterations, it allowed Benfotiamine to reach cells faster than Thiamine when it enters our body. That’s the biggest difference between the two.

Furthermore, Benfotiamine is made in a way that it can be absorbed by our bodies at a much faster rate compared to natural vitamin B1 (Thiamine). People use Benfotiamine as a medium to increase their Thiamine levels. 

Benfotiamine medication may also decrease cognitive loss in persons with mild Alzheimer’s disease or moderate cognitive impairment, according to several research studies. Nonetheless, human trials regarding this substance are quite limited and lack conclusive evidence at present. [1]

What is Thiamine?

Thiamine is a vitamin molecule found in foods, medications, and dietary supplements. It is often referred to as thiamin or vitamin B1. Whole grains, beans, certain meats, and seafood are some of the best sources of Thiamine.

Additionally, the metabolism of glucose, which is the main energy source for our brains, depends on thiamine. Thiamine is often non-toxic and well-tolerated when taken orally. However, there may be negative effects that occur seldom after IV injection, such as allergic responses, nausea, fatigue, and reduced coordination. [2]

The Difference Between Benfotiamine vs Thiamine

Benfotiamine and Thiamine are vitamins whose chemical structure is quite similar to each other. So technically, they are nearly identical substances. And the only distinction we can pinpoint between the two is the rate by which they are absorbed into our bodies. Due to its synthetic nature, scientists have found a way to make Benfotiamine’s absorption rate faster than that of Thiamine. [3]

Uses of Benfotiamine and Thiamine

Due to the lack of clinical trials, there is still no guaranteed evidence that Benfotiamine is a really effective means of human medication. But the various studies about this vitamin in animals claim that it can possibly be useful for: [4] [5] [6]

Diabetic neuropathy

Benfotiamine medication looks to be a promising option for minimizing the possibility of diabetic neuropathy occurring. Diabetic neuropathy is a serious diabetes complication that could manifest along with cardiovascular diseases and even death. High glucose levels cause a buildup of triose phosphates—which causes metabolic dysfunction and, eventually, diabetic nephropathy development.

Benfotiamine has been proven in preclinical tests in rats to reduce the development of nephropathy by preventing the formation of triose phosphates in diabetes.

Alleviating the Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Benfotiamine has been shown in preclinical investigations to improve cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Benfotiamine has been proven to diminish amyloid formation in Alzheimer’s disease in animals. These effects, however, have not been demonstrated in humans.

Benfotiamine is now in its 2nd phase of clinical trials to see if it helps in delaying cognitive deterioration among people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Boosting Kidney Protection

Data from research in rats imply that benfotiamine protects the remnant kidney and the peritoneal membrane during kidney dialysis and kidney dysfunction. A study published in Tissue and Cell by Ustuner et al. discovered that benfotiamine supplementation might assist in reducing antibiotic-induced nephrotoxicity. 

Benfotiamine pulls this feat this by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in renal tubular cells.

Aid for smokers

Smoking causes endothelial dysfunction, which is a precursor to cardiovascular disease. This occurrence is increased by oxidative damage and inflammation. Benfotiamine was found to reduce nicotine-induced vascular impairment in preclinical research on rats. 

A study on healthy volunteers found that short-term benfotiamine therapy can partially improve macrovascular function in people who smoke moderately.

Overcoming Alcohol Addiction

Chronic alcohol consumption is linked to severe nutritional and vitamin deficiencies. Alcoholism-related thiamine shortage is characterized by neurological disorders. These issues are caused by the gradual loss of white matter in the central and peripheral nervous systems. 

Thiamine replenishment is crucial for people with alcohol-induced neurological impairment. But benfotiamine has not been shown to be successful in crossing into the CNS using external measures.

Acting as an Antioxidant

Benfotiamine is also a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory characteristics that are formed by inhibiting the creation of prostaglandins and leukotrienes—which are lipid mediators responsible for allergic diseases and chronic inflammation.

Tolerability and Possible Side Effects of Benfotiamine

Benfotiamine’s multimodal benefits make it an appealing choice for treating a wide range of disorders. It may even cause modest elevations in liver function and urine white blood cells in a small fraction of the population. Yet, it is important to note that these benefits have been discovered in preclinical or early human research only. 

Side effects in clinical trials were minor and included gastrointestinal difficulties and skin responses. And as mentioned earlier, benfotiamine is converted to thiamine, and thiamine might cause low blood sugar. Therefore, anyone taking medications to lower their blood pressure or sugar should take extreme precautions.

In most human investigations, Benfotiamine is usually regarded as safe. With little to no reports of major side effects when taken in regular doses. Clinical trials, however, are required to confirm efficacy in humans and to evaluate long-term negative effects. [5] [6]

Bottomline: Benfotiamine vs Thiamine

Claims about Benfotiamine and Thiamine’s medical potential might sound very promising. But it is still important to note that these substances still require more clinical trials before they can be allowed for public use.

The biggest difference between benfotiamine vs thiamine is how well they’re absorbed by the body. But as always, do not forget to ask for advice from a licensed medical practitioner first before consuming them.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References and Fact-Checking

  • Gibson GE, Luchsinger JA, Cirio R, Chen H, Franchino-Elder J, Hirsch JA, Bettendorff L, Chen Z, Flowers SA, Gerber LM, Grandville T, Schupf N, Xu H, Stern Y, Habeck C, Jordan B, Fonzetti P. Benfotiamine and Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer’s Disease: Results of a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Phase IIa Clinical Trial. J Alzheimers Dis. 2020;78(3):989-1010. doi: 10.3233/JAD-200896. PMID: 33074237; PMCID: PMC7880246.
  • Tylicki A, Siemieniuk M. Tiamina i jej pochodne w regulacji metabolizmu komórek [Thiamine and its derivatives in the regulation of cell metabolism]. Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2011 Jul 6;65:447-69. Polish. doi: 10.5604/17322693.951633. PMID: 21734329.
  • Beltramo E, Berrone E, Tarallo S, Porta M. Effects of thiamine and benfotiamine on intracellular glucose metabolism and relevance in the prevention of diabetic complications. Acta Diabetol. 2008 Sep;45(3):131-41. doi: 10.1007/s00592-008-0042-y. Epub 2008 Jun 26. PMID: 18581039.
  • Raj V, Ojha S, Howarth FC, Belur PD, Subramanya SB. Therapeutic potential of benfotiamine and its molecular targets. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2018 May;22(10):3261-3273. doi: 10.26355/eurrev_201805_15089. PMID: 29863274.
  • Balakumar P, Rohilla A, Krishan P, Solairaj P, Thangathirupathi A. The multifaceted therapeutic potential of benfotiamine. Pharmacol Res. 2010 Jun;61(6):482-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 Feb 25. PMID: 20188835.
  • Gonçalves ÁC, Moreira EJS, Portari GV. Benfotiamine supplementation prevents oxidative stress in anterior tibialis muscle and heart. J Integr Med. 2019 Nov;17(6):423-429. doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2019.07.001. Epub 2019 Jul 16. PMID: 31395444.

Elijah enjoys creating content that educates and entertains at the same time. During the health-content writing process, Elijah takes extra care and precaution to craft research-backed articles that are helpful, educational, and relatable to readers from various walks of life. LinkedIn