B vitamins have been found beneficial for degenerative nerve diseases like diabetic neuropathy, according to a study published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics vol. 34, No. 2 – 1996 (47-50).
About half of all people with diabetes develop diabetic neuropathy due to the fact that diabetes, like most metabolic disorders, causes nerve cell malfunctions and damage. In clinical studies, B vitamin complexes have been proven to help in nerve regeneration and act as an analgesic.
Thiamine (B1), for example, has a key role in carbohydrate metabolism, which nerve fibers use as their main source of energy delivery. This energy helps fuel the axons for nerve regeneration, thus improving diabetic neuropathy.
Additional studies investigated which combinations of B vitamins are beneficial for nerves. A 1996 study published in Endocrinology and Diabetes reports that researchers at the University of Giessen, Germany, combined benfotiamine, a form of B1 (40 mg), with B6 (90 mg) and B12 (.25 mg) capsules to study how it influenced vibration perception and nerve conduction speed in people with diabetic neuropathy.
Study participants were type 1 or 2 insulin dependent, aged 40 to 60 and had had diabetic polyneuropathy for at least four months but for less than three years.
Patients that got the B complex over the course of 12 weeks experienced positive changes, especially in nerve conduction and vibration perception. Nerve regeneration was found to be helped by B1, B6 and B12 as well.
An interesting outcome of this and other similar studies is that benfotiamine is absorbed in a higher concentration level in an orally administered fat-soluble form than in a water-soluble form. Therefore, oral, fat-soluble benfotiamines are better for treating diabetic polyneuropathy because they are absorbed more quickly by the tissues.
Since the benfotiamine vitamin B combination therapy benefits the nervous system, researchers suggest that B vitamins can be considered a starting point for diabetic polyneuropathy treatment.