What Is Benfotiamine?

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 12, 2024
3 min read

Benfotiamine is a lab-made version of vitamin B1, also called thiamine. Scientists are studying it to see if it might help conditions like diabetes-related nerve damage, Alzheimer’s disease, and alcohol dependence.

Early research into the potential benefits of benfotiamine has shown some promise. But more evidence is needed to back up its health claims.

Thiamine, the natural version of benfotiamine, is a B vitamin you get from foods like whole grains, meat, legumes, and nuts. It helps cells in your body grow and work.

Thiamine deficiency -- when you don’t get enough thiamine -- is rare in the U.S. But low levels of it may be linked to certain health problems, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Researchers want to know if boosting those levels with supplements might help.

Your body might have a hard time absorbing thiamine. That’s where benfotiamine comes in. Benfotiamine, which turns into thiamine once it’s inside your body, may build up to helpful levels more easily.

Here’s what the research on this supplement says.

Some early research suggests that benfotiamine on its own or with other B vitamins might ease symptoms of nerve damage, or neuropathy, in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. But the studies were small and lasted only weeks. Other research has found no benefits to the nerves.

It’s also unclear if benfotiamine may help prevent or treat other diabetes complications like heart failure, kidney disease (nephropathy), and eye damage (retinopathy).

The National Institute on Aging is funding a small pilot study to look at whether benfotiamine could slow the decline of mental skills, like thinking and remembering, in people with mild Alzheimer’s. If the results show promise, that may pave the way for more research.

So far, there have been no large, well-designed studies on benfotiamine as a treatment for Alzheimer’s.

A long-term drinking problem can lower your body’s levels of thiamine, the natural version of benfotiamine.

One small study suggests that a high daily dose of benfotiamine may help curb drinking in women with alcohol use disorder. Another study found it may ease mental distress in men who’ve stopped drinking to recover from severe alcoholism.

Still, much more research is needed.

Some supplement makers claim that benfotiamine is good for your blood sugar, nerves, or immune system. Be wary of the hype. And talk to your doctor before you try it.

Tell them about any medications or other supplements you take. They can check to see if benfotiamine might affect the way your meds work. Ask your doctor which brand you should buy, and how much and for how long you should use it.

In certain studies, people who took 300-600 milligrams of benfotiamine by mouth every day saw no serious side effects. But it could give you a skin rash if you’re prone to allergies.