Benfotiamine is a relative of thiamine, better known as vitamin B1. Thiamine is critical for the metabolism of our brain’s major energy source—glucose. And benfotiamine, which converts to thiamine in the body, enters cells more easily than thiamine. Some studies suggested that benfotiamine treatment slowed cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease, but the studies were small and inconclusive. Benfotiamine appears to be safe when used at standard doses.
Two small clinical trials suggest that benfotiamine treatment slows cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease, but they need to be confirmed by larger, long-term studies. Our search identified:
In a randomized controlled trial of 70 people with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease, benfotiamine treatment (300 mg, twice daily) for 12 months showed a trend for a slowing of cognitive decline . Advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are toxic protein modifications indicative of altered glucose metabolism and aging, typically increase in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, but benfotiamine treatment significantly reduced this increase. No benfotiamine effects were observed for verbal memory or cerebral glucose metabolism in this study. A larger confirmatory trial is needed to extend these preliminary findings.
Benfotiamine is converted to thiamine, which serves as a key factor for three enzymes involved in generating energy from glucose . Preclinical studies have found that benfotiamine enhances cognitive function and reduces biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease [3; 4]. These benefits may be due to benfotiamine’s ability to suppress the activity of an enzyme that promotes the progression of Alzheimer’s . However, these effects have not been confirmed in humans.
In a randomized controlled trial, benfotiamine treatment (300 mg, twice daily) for 12 months showed a trend for a slowing of cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease . However, benefits were only seen in people who had high cognitive function at baseline. There was also a small open-label, uncontrolled study which showed that benfotiamine treatment for 18 months resulted in improved cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients . The treatment did not decrease levels of beta-amyloid, a biological marker of Alzheimer’s disease.
Benfotiamine is generally considered safe for most people when taken at standard doses. In clinical trials, side effects were mild and included gastrointestinal issues and skin reactions . A small percentage of people taking benfotiamine may have mild increases in liver enzymes and urinary white blood cells . Because benfotiamine gets converted to thiamine (vitamin B1), and thiamine may cause low blood pressure or low blood glucose, people taking drugs or herbs to lower blood pressure or blood glucose should exercise caution .
NOTE: This is not a comprehensive safety evaluation or complete list of potentially harmful drug interactions. It is important to discuss safety issues with your physician before taking any new supplement or medication.
Benfotiamine supplements are available over-the-counter, often in capsules containing 150–300 mg. In a randomized controlled trial in people with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease, a benfotiamine dose of 300 mg, orally, twice daily, was tested . Other studies in clinical populations have used doses ranging from 200–600 mg/day [7; 10; 11].
Information on safety and drug interactions with thiamine from the Mayo Clinic
Full scientific report (PDF) on Cognitive Vitality Reports