Long-term effects of diabetes – how benfotiamine and alpha lipoic acid act on diabetic polyneuropathy

In diabetes mellitus, glucose uptake from the blood to the body cells is impaired. The key for glucose uptake into each cell of the body is insulin. Without this key, the lock remains almost locked and consequently blood sugar levels remain high. Depending on the type of diabetes, there is either a total lack of insulin (type 1) because the pancreas cannot produce insulin, or the condition is called type 2 (diabetes mellitus), the so-called acquired diabetes. In these cases, there are several causes and various combinations of insulin resistance, hyperinsulinism, relative lack of insulin, and pancreatic secretion disorders are conceivable. Unless countermeasures are taken, the result is always the same: higher sugar level in the blood and urine.

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The permanently elevated blood sugar level is responsible for long-term diabetes effects

Long-term excessive blood sugar level leads to typical diabetic comorbidities and serious long-term diabetes damage over time. They include diabetic polyneuropathy , the dying of several peripheral nerves that can be responsible for sensory sensations (cf. diabetic neuropathy in the feet), movement and organ control. Other diabetic comorbidities can lead to the loss of individual limbs (diabetic foot) or become noticeable through the consequences of arteriosclerosis, e.g. heart attack and stroke, kidney failure and vision loss. In this article, you will learn what triggers diabetes long-term damage and how it can be counteracted with timely purposeful intake of the biofactors benfotiamine and alpha lipoic acid.

To prevent long-term diabetes effects, the blood sugar level must be kept under control

If the often insidiously developing diabetes disease is detected late or a diagnosed diabetes patient has problems managing his blood sugar level, the blood sugar level can become permanently elevated. Blood sugar and its various degradation and intermediate products damage cells. The resulting sugar alcohols, for example, attack the nerves. The saccharified proteins and/or lipids, so-called AGEs (advanced glycation end products) are stored in many ways, accumulate, and the free oxygen radicals cause oxidative stress, which damages blood vessels. The consequences are arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and an insufficient supply of important nerves and organs until the affected body regions cease functioning.

Diabetes Spätfolgen Zucker
Diabetic polyneuropathy – when the nerves fail

When blood vessels are damaged, nerve endings are no longer supplied with enough oxygen and biofactors. In addition, the nerves can be directly attacked by sugar alcohols. At risk are peripheral nerve types – from the sensory and motor all the way to the vegetative nerves – therefore the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) are not affected. When several nerves are affected, this is called polyneuropathy. When only certain peripheral nerves, e.g. in the extremities, are affected, this is called diabetic neuropathy, a precursor of polyneuropathy – however transitions are fluid. If sensory nerves are functionally impaired, symptoms like the loss or abnormal sensations of the sense of touch, pain, and temperature in specific body parts can occur, especially in the feet. The consequence: Sensorial disorders like tingling, burning, numbness or pain for which there is no external stimulus. If motor nerves are affected, paralysis symptoms occur. Vegetative nerves control unconscious processes in our body and the consequences of damage can be weak bladder control, male sexual dysfunction or impaired sweat production. Often, diabetic polyneuropathy affects the regions far from the torso (i.e. the feet) first. Incidentally, diabetes is not the only possible polyneuropathy trigger – other factors that include heavy drinking, certain autoimmune diseases or vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a functional loss of important nerves as well.

How can I prevent or treat long-term diabetes effects like polyneuropathy?

It is possible to be symptom-free for a long time with diabetes mellitus. It is critical, however, to detect diabetes early that the blood sugar level can be permanently managed to stay at a tolerable extent. To achieve this, the patient needs to be disciplined because in general a lifestyle adjustment is required. Apart from the fact that the blood sugar level needs to be monitored and managed regularly, many diabetic patients should watch what they eat, give up smoking and drinking and start moving instead. Especially with type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet is an important factor to influence blood sugar levels in the long run. However, patients with type 1 diabetes should monitor exactly how many carbohydrates they eat in order to avoid incorrect insulin dosing and dangerous fluctuations of the blood sugar levels. Taking certain biofactors like benfotiamine or alpha lipoic acid as medications can also contribute to specifically preventing certain long-term effects such as diabetic polyneuropathy.

This is the role that benfotiamine plays in long-term diabetes effects

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, plays an important role in the long-term consequences of diabetes, particularly in diabetic polyneuropathy. If there is a lack of the biofactor thiamine, the carbohydrate metabolism no longer functions very well, becomes unbalanced, and the damaging degradation products of sugar metabolism, the AGEs, start accumulating. By interfering with nerve function, they contribute to the appearance and progression of diabetic polyneuropathy. A well-adjusted thiamine balance helps to regulate the AGEs circulating in the blood by reducing their production through the support of certain glucose metabolic pathways - and normal nerve function benefits as a result of this. If someone would now like to specifically regulate his vitamin B1 balance, the intake of thiamine derivatives is recommended. Various medical studies have shown that fat-soluble benfotiamine, a vitamin B1 precursor, can be absorbed well by the body to inhibit the formation of damaging sugar degradation products. A study carried out at the University of Bad Kissingen showed that the subjects who took benfotiamine to alleviate their nerve pain and improve their sensory nerve functions were able to perceive fine sensory stimuli like vibration better than before, compared to the test group that took a placebo.

Polyneuropathy prevention through a vitamin B-conscious diet

If you, as a diabetic patient, belong to the polyneuropathy risk group, it is a good idea to follow a vitamin B-conscious diet. Foods especially high in thiamine are whole grain products like oats and whole grain bread. The biofactor is found mostly in the marginal layers of various cultivated cereals. Therefore, largely avoid ‘empty’ white flour products. In addition, sunflower seeds and legumes like peas contain a lot of vitamin B1 – apart from many other valuable ingredients. High in vitamin B1 as well are pork and fish like plaice or tuna and some other foods.

Diabetes Spätfolgen Ernährung

If there is already a biofactor deficiency (for example, of vitamin B1), it is difficult to balance it again only by eating the right foods. Particularly those persons who for various reasons find it hard to follow a balanced diet – because of stressful day-to-day work or because they live in an senior-citizens home or nursing home and have little control over their own menu – should therefore not abstain from getting a sufficient supply of the important biofactor benfotiamine (vitamin B1). In these cases, it can be beneficial to specifically take additional benfotiamine to prevent the serious consequences of a deficiency.

Binds free radicals – the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid in the long-term effects of diabetes

Alpha lipoic acid is no vitamin, but a water- and fat-soluble sulfurous fatty acid naturally produced in the body. It is involved in each cell's mitochondrial energy production that our body depends on for remaining alive. In addition, lipoic acid is an effective antioxidant able to bind not only various free radicals, but heavy metals as well, thereby helping to detoxify the body. Moreover, it can regenerate other antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10 to restore the balance that they can once again carry out their antioxidative function. Since it is both fat- and water-soluble, alpha lipoic acid can enter all cells and body fluids and even pass the blood-brain barrier to exert its effect.

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Alpha lipoic acid and diabetic polyneuropathy

A study from 2008 showed that short-term treatment with alpha lipoic acid can relieve polyneuropathy symptoms. The so-called NATHAN II study, for example, showed improvements in nerve function after four years as part of the neurological study and some neuropathic symptoms in the alpha lipoic acid group. Their strong antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effect helps the binding of damaging oxygen radicals, thereby reducing the load on the bloodstream and nerves. This also contributes to decrease the dangerous consequences of damaged blood vessels like arteriosclerosis and the resulting heart attack and stroke risk. In polyneuropathy, the active ingredient can be used both symptomatically (i.e. to alleviate pain and paresthesia symptoms) and pathogenetically (i.e. to stop disease progression).

Diabetic patients should pay attention to this when taking alpha lipoic acid

Alpha lipoic acid also has a positive influence on cellular glucose uptake, thus leading to a change in the needed insulin dose. Therefore, you should by all means consult with your physician if you intent to take alpha lipoic acid so you can correctly dose the insulin you take. Various foods also contain alpha lipoic acid – owing to its high concentration in mitochondria, it is found more likely in meat products and innards like liver, heart and kidney. Some vegetable varieties like broccoli, tomatoes or spinach contain traces of alpha lipoic acid. If the intention is to selectively supply the active ingredient in acute situations, a conscious diet is no longer sufficient. In these cases, consult your physician.

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