Showing posts with label Benfotiamine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Benfotiamine. Show all posts

Monday, 14 March 2016

Benfotiamine for Autism

by Seth Bittker

In recent decades populations of wild bird species in the Baltic Sea have been dying off in large numbers from a paralytic disease.  When some of the birds with signs of this disease are given thiamine, they rapidly improve.  So it would appear the immediate cause of these large scale population decreases among the birds of the Baltic is thiamine deficiency [1]. The same thing appears to be happening to large mammals like elk [2].

Setting aside the question of underlying cause, could it be another mammal high up the food chain also has many members of its population suffering  from thiamine deficiency?  There is no good standardized test for thiamine deficiency that does not involve supplementing with thiamine.  So whether individual humans are somewhat deficient in thiamine is not obvious.  However, a particular constellation of symptoms was recognized as the disease “beriberi” before it was understood that the underlying cause was thiamine deficiency.  And what are the signs of beriberi?  The symptoms are variable but some that have been observed are mental confusion, irritability, difficulty moving, loss of sensation, loss of muscle function, rashes, involuntary eye movements, digestive issues, abdominal pain, and sometimes lactic acidosis [3].

Many of these symptoms match the symptoms of some with autism.  So one might naturally wonder whether some cases of autism are in fact unrecognized cases of beriberi and perhaps more likely that thiamine deficiency could play a role in other cases of autism depending upon other genetic and environmental factors.  A Dr. Luong and Dr. Nguyen previously noticed this similarity and developed this idea into a paper from 2013 which is available here [4].

Pulling from their Abstract:

“A relationship between thiamine status and the development of autism has been established, with thiamine supplementation exhibiting a beneficial clinical effect on children with autism. Thiamine may involve in autism via apoptotic factors (transcription factor p53, Bcl-2, and caspase-3), neurotransmitter systems (serotonin, acetylcholine, and glutamate), and oxidative stress (prostaglandins, cyclooxygenase-2, reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide synthase, the reduced form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, and mitochondrial dysfunction). In addition, thiamine has also been implicated in autism via its effects on basic myelin protein, glycogen synthetase kinase-3β, alpha-1 antitrypsin, and glyoxalase 1.”

A researcher named Derrick Lonsdale found in 2003 that a set of 8 of 10 children with autism had clinical improvement on suppositories containing thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD), a thiamine derivative [5].  There was no control group on this study.  So one should be cautious when interpreting these results.  In addition Lonsdale was interested in metals excretion – TTFD can serve as a chelator.  He found that TTFD increased excretion of such toxic metals but it also would increase thiamine levels as well.

I have not experimented with TTFD, but Lonsdale’s work did get me thinking about oral supplementation of thiamine.  I tried experimenting with my son on regular thiamine hydrochloride.   I thought there may have been a very modest effect in terms of increasing his energy but it was not a sizeable effect.  However, there are other forms of thiamine.  One lipid soluble form that has been used with some modest success in diabetic neuropathy is benfotiamine [6].

There are case reports of neuropathy in cases of autism [7].  In addition one symptom of some with autism that are significantly affected is arm flapping.  It seems to me a person may flap his arms if he is feeling numbness and he is trying to get blood flowing to reduce the discomfort.  For the same reason somebody who is cold may move his limbs rhythmically.  In other words, I think arm flapping may typically be a sign of neuropathy and that neuropathy is an under-recognized and often comorbid condition with autism.

My son does not have neuropathy, but we did try benfotiamine on him.  My experience is that on it he had a significant reduction in irritability, increased cuddliness, and more energy.  I also feel he was mentally sharper initially but this diminished with higher doses.  Another result was he had flatulence some of which was pungent soon after starting supplementation.  In retrospect I take this as a sign that his digestion was beginning to operate more efficiently and relatedly he may have been dumping xenobiotics into his bowel when starting benfotiamine but this is pure speculation on my part.

After about a week on benfotiamine he got a rash and I began to feel that his mental acuity was leveling off.  I found that if I gave him biotin the rash went away and his mental acuity became sharper again.  Biotin and thiamine are both sulfur containing B-vitamins  and there are genetic diseases where both are involved [8].   My experience with my son suggests to me that there may be some common pathways with these nutrients.  In other words, I think befotiamine supplementation may exacerbate biotin deficiency.  As some may be aware, biotin deficiency is also sometimes seen in autism [9].  So for this reason I think they should be taken together when given for autism.

Thus, if you do a trial of benfotiamine, I would include biotin as well.  I am currently giving my son about 120 mg of benfotiamine per day and 5 mg of biotin per day.  He is about 90 pounds.  I give these to him in a juice smoothie because benfotiamine tastes a bit tangy.  You might also consider providing them in something sweet.

In interest of full disclosure when communicating about benfotiamine in the comment section of a separate post, Agnieska Wroczynska mentioned that benfotiamine had a positive effect on her child but increased hyperactivity.  So she found it was not ultimately helpful, and RG reported no positive affect whatsoever.  So it is possible that the experience that I have had with it with my son is highly unusual.

If you do wish to do a trial, as with any other supplement, start with low doses first to avoid risk and increase modestly if you see positive effects.  I am interested in others experiences with it and hope if you try it you will leave a comment here with some color on the results.

I thank Peter Lloyd-Thomas for the opportunity to write this guest blog and for providing a wonderful forum on autism treatment and autism research.