Life Extension Magazine January 2007
By Dale Kiefer
Benfotiamine Optimizes Endothelial and Vascular Function
In clinical studies from around the world, benfotiamine has repeatedly demonstrated remarkable effects in normalizing endothelial function.
Endothelial cells line the interior of blood vessels. These specialized cells are commonly damaged by high blood sugar and diabetes. When blood vessels are unable to relax and dilate in response to increased blood flow demands, the result is the dangerous condition known as endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction is believed to contribute to the initiation of atherosclerosis and to underlie much of the damage associated with the complications of diabetes, particularly peripheral vascular disease.
Peripheral vascular disease occurs when blood flow through arteries in the arms and legs is impaired. Dangers of peripheral vascular disease include:
German scientists recently investigated benfotiamine’s effectiveness in supporting healthy endothelial function and peripheral blood flow. In the study, diabetic patients consumed a meal containing large amounts of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) derived from foods cooked at high temperatures. AGEs are known to contribute to endothelial dysfunction. The subjects ate the AGE-rich meal both before and after three days of treatment with benfotiamine. Indicators of endothelial function, oxidative stress, and AGEs were measured after an overnight fast on the test days, and at two, four, and six hours after the test meals.22
The AGE-rich meal alone produced several harmful changes, including:
The detrimental changes caused by the AGE-rich meal alone were completely prevented by supplementation with benfotiamine. Benfotiamine promoted numerous improvements, including:
This important German study demonstrates that AGEs directly contribute to vastly diminished vascular function in diabetics, and that the use of benfotiamine prevents AGE-induced endothelial dysfunction, impaired blood flow, and increased oxidative stress.22
Two recent studies from Italy validate benfotiamine’s ability to support healthy endothelial function, even in the presence of high blood glucose levels. Independent Italian research teams showed that, in addition to preserving mature endothelial cells lining blood vessels, benfotiamine also protects endothelial progenitor cells, or cells that develop into endothelial cells. These progenitor cells are crucial to the repair and maintenance of healthy endothelial tissue.23,24 While hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, interferes with the normal development of progenitor cells, the Italian scientists noted that normal development of these cells can be restored by the administration of benfotiamine.23 Similarly, benfotiamine inhibited human epithelial progenitor cell death, which is caused by high glucose levels.24
Benfotiamine’s ability to support the health of endothelial cells may have important implications in helping people to avoid peripheral vascular disease. Scientists now believe that the endothelial dysfunction that occurs with diabetes can easily lead to diabetic peripheral vascular disease.16
Japanese researchers found that peripheral arterial disease affecting the legs’ blood vessels commonly occurs together with endothelial dysfunction. As a result, the legs do not receive the critical supply of blood and oxygen they need to stay healthy and functional.25 Moreover, diabetic patients with peripheral arterial disease have fewer circulating endothelial progenitor cells, which are necessary to keep blood vessels functioning optimally so they can deliver blood to the limbs.26
In a model of peripheral vascular disease, benfotiamine improved endothelial function, which restored circulation to the legs and increased blood and oxygen supply to the tissues. This is especially important in keeping the limbs healthy and avoiding amputation, an all-too-common consequence of vascular dysfunciton. Additionally, benfotiamine reduced the diabetes-induced deficit in endothelial progenitor cells, which led to improved healing responses in the legs of diabetic subjects.24
Benfotiamine Reduces Heart Disease Risk
Individuals with diabetes suffer from a greatly increased risk of heart disease. Benfotiamine may play an important role in strategies to protect heart health in people with high blood sugar.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Wyoming gauged benfotiamine’s ability to prevent heart disease in an experimental model of human type II diabetes. One group was rendered diabetic, while a second control group remained normal. Both groups received benfotiamine therapy for two weeks. Scientists then examined heart cells from both groups, assessing their ability to contract and various biochemical parameters.27
As expected, diabetes was associated with increased oxidative stress, which interfered with the healthy function of heart muscle. Benfotiamine treatment alleviated many of the heart cell changes caused by diabetes, decreasing oxidative stress and restoring heart cell function. The researchers concluded that benfotiamine may guard heart muscle cells against the dysfunction associated with diabetes.27
Supplementing with benfotiamine may thus be crucial in protecting the heart against the adverse effects of diabetes.
Benfotiamine Promotes Kidney Health
Kidney disease, or nephropathy, is one of the most dreaded complications of diabetes. When kidney function deteriorates in people with diabetes, the kidneys may no longer be able to perform their crucial task of filtering urine. As a result, diabetics with advanced nephropathy must resort to kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant. Kidney disease also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality.
In a 24-week study, scientists examined the effects of benfotiamine and thiamine on subjects with diabetes. Both forms of vitamin B1 produced beneficial changes in markers of kidney function and health, including:
The scientists noted that while both benfotiamine and thiamine helped prevent the kidney complications associated with diabetes, benfotiamine appears to be a superior choice due to its greater bioavailability in the body.5,10 This research indicates benfotiamine and thiamine may help people with diabetes safeguard the health of their kidneys and protect against the devastating consequences of nephropathy.
Benfotiamine Helps to Avert Vision Loss
While diabetes threatens whole-body health, the eyes are particularly vulnerable to damage. Damage to small blood vessels caused by diabetes can result in retinopathy (a disease of the eye’s retina, which collects visual information) and even blindness.
Scientists in Germany discovered that administration of benfotiamine helped to prevent retinopathy in test subjects with diabetes. Study subjects who received benfotiamine for 36 weeks demonstrated completely normalized levels of damaging AGEs in the retina, leading the research team to conclude that benfotiamine may help prevent or delay the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy.8
Benfotiamine appears to provide essential protection to the eyes, helping prevent vision-robbing diabetic retinopathy.
For decades, benfotiamine has been safely used as a prescription drug in Europe, where this natural vitamin B1 derivative has demonstrated efficacy in preventing many serious complications of prolonged hyperglycemia.
Consumers in America can now readily access benfotiamine as a low-cost dietary supplement. Laboratory investigations and controlled studies have confirmed that benfotiamine alleviates and may even reverse diabetic neuropathy, kidney disease, cardiac impairment, endothelial dysfunction, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetic retinopathy. With its proven ability to confer broad-spectrum support for the blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, eyes, and heart, benfotiamine should be considered a first-line defense against the debilitating consequences of diabetes and high blood sugar.
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