Benfotiamine nothing but "Snake Oil"

A popular vitamin supplement is being advertised with claims that are demonstrably untrue, as revealed by research published in the open access journal BMC Pharmacology.

Benfotiamine is a synthetic derivative of thiamine (vitamin B1). It is marketed heavily as a dietary supplement using a selection of unsubstantiated, 'not-quite-medical' claims that tend to characterize this field. A large part of this campaign has been built around the belief that benfotiamine is lipid-soluble and, therefore, more physiologically active. Scientific research led by Dr Lucien Bettendorff of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology at the University of Liège, Belgium, has entirely disproved these claims.

A severe deficiency of thiamine is known to cause weight loss, emotional disturbances, impaired sensory perception, weakness and pain in the limbs, and periods of irregular heart rate. Deficiencies can occur as a result of alcoholism or malnutrition. As thiamine itself is very poorly absorbed by the body, it must be taken in as various precursor forms. This research shows that benfotiamine may not be as effective in this regard as has been claimed, in particular concerning its ability to raise effective thiamine levels in the central nervous system.

According to Bettendorff, "We suspect that those companies selling benfotiamine have poisoned much of the recent literature in an attempt to bestow it with properties that it does not have". Benfotiamine has been previously shown to prevent several diabetic complications in experimental animal models. The researchers carried out experiments in mice in which benfotiamine was administered using several different techniques and the resulting levels of thiamine were measured in various parts of the body. Contrary to other claims about its solubility, the results show that benfotiamine is only sparingly soluble in water under physiological conditions and cannot be dissolved in octanol or oils.

As Bettendorff explains, "Benfotiamine is very often considered a 'lipid-soluble' thiamine precursor from the disulfide derivative family though it is neither lipid-soluble, nor a disulfide. Sometimes, it is considered to have more biological activity than thiamine disulfides, but our study shows that it does not even penetrate cell membranes, except in those cells containing an ecto-alkaline phosphatase. There is no evidence that benfotiamine would be more effective than other precursors as a therapeutic agent for complications of diabetes."

Due to the wide-reaching nature of the false claims about this supplement, it was important to the authors that their work be published in BMC Pharmacology as it is an open access journal that makes research freely available.



  1. chris chris United States says:

    These observations fly in the face of the relevant biochemistry and numerous peer review studies available through PubMed that show distinct benefit for diabetic animals and humans.

    • Allen Allen United States says:

      For example:

      Emerging role of thiamine therapy for prevention and treatment of early-stage diabetic nephropathy.

      Rabbani N, Thornalley PJ.

      Diabetes Obes Metab. 2011 Jul;13(7):577-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2011.01384.x.

          [PubMed - in process]

    • Allen Allen United States says:

      J Am Soc Nephrol. 2011 May;22(5):914-26. Epub 2011 Apr 21.
      Benfotiamine protects against peritoneal and kidney damage in peritoneal dialysis.
      Kihm LP, Müller-Krebs S, Klein J, Ehrlich G, Mertes L, Gross ML, Adaikalakoteswari A, Thornalley PJ, Hammes HP, Nawroth PP, Zeier M, Schwenger V.

      Department of Nephrology, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 162, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany. [email protected]

      Residual renal function and the integrity of the peritoneal membrane contribute to morbidity and mortality among patients treated with peritoneal dialysis. Glucose and its degradation products likely contribute to the deterioration of the remnant kidney and damage to the peritoneum. Benfotiamine decreases glucose-induced tissue damage

    • Marilyn Thorpe Marilyn Thorpe Canada says:

      This is a very unfortunate article. My mother was in excrutiating pain. Her doctor told her it was nerve pain and wanted to put her on Celebrex. I found out about benfotiamine, and at lower doses, it helped her a little but not completely. Then I read that people often find large doses are more helpful, and my mother takes at least 750 mg per day or more, and says it makes an incredible difference. She can now sleep again and is much happier.

    • Frank Tull Frank Tull Belize says:

      When I read these words " 'not-quite-medical' claims that tend to characterize this field." It reminded me of the $170+ billion raked in by the medical establishment for diabetes medications that do nothing but make the condition worse. I would like to see more people stand up and say enough to conventional medicine's policies of treating the symptoms but not the cause. The medical profession is not as honorable as it once was in fact it is bordering criminality.

  2. C.A. Cooper C.A. Cooper United States says:

    I have been using Benfotiamine for about one year after experiemcing extreme pain in my feet, and numbness of the fingers and hands.  After a few weeks using Benfotiamine, 320 mg morning, and 320 mg evening, the pain and numbness has dissapeared completely.  Snake Oil ? ? ?  I think not ! ! !

  3. Darrell Samples Darrell Samples United States says:

    Typical allopathic propaganda and fearmongering.  The US is waking up to just how dogmatic, single minded and narrow thinking the western medical mindset truly has become, it is not about patient needs but how much western medicine can fleece its patient base.  The true "snake oil" is metformin, which just maskes the symptoms but offers no true curative effect. How many people have needlessly suffered because of this untrustworthy article.

  4. Walter Constantinople Walter Constantinople United States says:

    Fortunately there are real doctors such as Michael Brownlee that documented the actual efficacy of BENFOTIAMINE long before the hawkish fear mongers figured out how to post to the internet.

  5. Eric Eric United States says:

    This article claims benfotiamine is nothing but snake oil, but utterly fails to disprove any of the benefits.  The only thing it disproves is solubility and increases in thiamine levels in the body.  That doesn't mean benfotiamine can't have lots of benefits. If you read the actual PubMed articles on benfotiamine, you'll find significant benefits have been proven to the satisfaction of the medical research community.

  6. Griselda Griselda Canada says:

    Should have published in Big Pharma!

  7. Norman Lacson Norman Lacson United States says:

    My wife is diabetic and when she was using metformin and glipizide there were so much side effects. Now she taking Benfotiamine with other sugar lowering supplements and she does not have any side effects, so this article is nothing but hogwash!

  8. Jerry Jerry United States says:

    I love the way that right in the middle of this article there is a Google add for Benfotiamine!

    I guess big pharma and this site will make money any way they can even with "snake oil".

    Gee I guess this stuff isn't that bad then is it? What a joke.

  9. Terry Beckham Terry Beckham United States says:

    This article states that benfotiamine does not help the CNS, which is true per many other peer reviewed articles, here on the net. However, many, many studies have been conducted, peer reviewed-double blind, that show that benfotiamine  does work quite effectively in the peripheral areas of the nervous system of the body. Many have shown the reversal, if not complete cure, of diabetic neuropathy!

    Big Pharma lies cannot be hidden in this era of public access to medical reviews and ongoing research available to all!

  10. carolyn carolyn United States says:

    I had complete neuropathy in fingers and feet, glove and stocking syndrome, and using Benfiotamine and ALA (alpha lipoic acid.

    I have had improved sensory effects in both fingers and feet, although not yet fully recovered, I expect the recovery pace to continue, and if it does, I should have complete recovery in a relatively short time-span.

  11. J J Canada says:

    Thanks Big Pharma.  I suppose your profits are way more important than the health of the General Public.  As a matter of fact, I can't even get Benfotiamine in Canada.  I have to order it from the U.S.  Good job trying to keep me from being well.  Too bad for you that I can think for myself.  This article just proves how corrupt Big Pharma is.  

  12. Gerard Mougeot Gerard Mougeot Russia says:

    This article is ridiculous.  If you follow the link:
    given as the "source" of the article, you' ll find out the website has research results indicating exactly the opposite ! ! !  The author has a solid sens of humor Wink

  13. Glld Gaillard Glld Gaillard France says:

    I have been using 300mg/day of BenfotIamine for several years. When I started, I got a great improvment on neuropatic sensory effects on fingers.
    Even if less soluble in lipids than stated in publications, Bemfotiamine is efficient and should be claimed as such for the good-sake of diabetics !!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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