Allithiamine is a fat-soluble form of vitamin B-1. Although vitamin B-1 (thiamin) is most commonly found in its water-soluble form, allithiamine is also a naturally occurring form of this vitamin and is found in many foods, including garlic.
Since it is fat-soluble, allithiamine has the advantage of being excreted at a much slower rate than the common form of thiamin. In addition, while thiamin in any form is associated with health of the nervous system, the fat-soluble form is far more effective in promoting recovery of a damaged nervous system.
The reason for this may be that the nervous system is, in large part, made up of fat. Nerves are encased in a protective fatty cover known as the myelin sheath. Efficient functioning of the nerves is largely dependent on the health of this sheath. Because allithiamine is fat-soluble, it dissolves more easily and is better absorbed in these fatty regions of the nervous system where it can promote recovery.
Vitamin B-1 deficiency is widespread in our society due to the prevalent high-carbohydrate diets. This vitamin is consumed when carbs are digested and used (metabolized) in the body, so the more carbs we eat the more thiamin we need. However refined carbs are a poor source of thiamin and when they become the major component of the diet, people exhaust their thiamin reserves without replenishing them, so they become deficient. In our country some carbohydrate products are enriched with thiamin for this very reason, but the amount added is probably inadequate, at least for a segment of the population (besides, many carbohydrates like French fries are not enriched).
An extreme form of chronic vitamin B-1 deficiency is seen in alcoholics. Alcohol is metabolized like a carbohydrate but provides no nutrients at all and thus robs the body of many vitamins, especially thiamin. This extreme deficiency can lead to a form of dementia known as Wernicke-Korsakoff psychosis that is treated with daily vitamin B-1 injections.
Diabetics are also often deficient in thiamin, although their deficiency is usually not severe enough to cause dementia. A prevalent symptom of deficiency in diabetics is polyneuropathy, a condition characterized by loss of sensation in the extremities. An early sign of this condition is “burning” feet, which explains why many diabetics (and alcoholics) often cannot tolerate sleeping with a blanket covering their feet.
Derrick Lonsdale, MD has found thiamin deficiency to also be prevalent in children with ADHD and autism. Dr. Lonsdale discovered that thiamin deficiency tends to manifest in children as hyperactivity and a sensitivity to touch that he calls “touch-me-not syndrome.”
A recent double-blind controlled study of allithiamine supplementation was performed in Germany on diabetic patients who suffered from polyneuropathy. Patients in the active treatment group were given oral supplements of allithiamine (actually benfotiamine, a form of allithiamine) plus vitamins B-6 and B-12 that have synergistic actions. After the 12-week duration of the study, all patients who received the vitamin combination showed significant improvements. Additional progress was observed nine months later in a group who continued to take the vitamins after the study was completed. Incidentally, no side effects were reported in this study (“A benfotiamine-vitamin B combination in treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy” Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 1996; 104 (4): 311-6).
Allithiamine is also very effective as a piece of the treatment puzzle in children with ADHD and autism when there is a pre-existing deficiency. Although oral administration is highly effective, this vitamin has a viciously bad taste and it is usually administered as a cream to children who are too small to swallow pills.