Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I want to tell you something about one of Mother Nature’s gifts. I am sure that some people taking the trouble to read this blog have tried to get information on garlic. It has been used, of course, in food preparation for centuries. In about the middle of the last century a group of medical researchers in Japan were studying it and they found something that alerted their curiosity. When the inside of a garlic bulb is exposed to air by cutting or crushing it, vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is worked on by an enzyme that exists in the bulb. It converts thiamine to a disulfide derivative that they called allithiamine. This name was given because they found it in other plants within the allium species that includes garlic. Garlic also contains about twenty sulfur containing compounds called thiols that are important in the normal use of cellular oxygen. Originally the investigators thought that this newly discovered substance had lost the biochemical properties that are known to be initiated by thiamine in animal cells, including humans. Further study in animals showed that it had biologic properties that actually exceeded those exhibited by the original thiamine. In order to understand why this was an important discovery I have to remind you about the action of thiamine in the body.
The human adult body is made up of between 70 and 100 trillion cells. Each has to use oxygen to create the energy that enables it to function, as has been discussed in previous posts. Thiamine is the “spark plug” that “ignites” glucose, the fuel of all our cells and it is particularly important in the brain, heart and nervous system. Its absorption from the foods that contain it, its journey in the blood to the cells that require it and its delivery to those cells, involves complex biochemistry. It has long been thought that the RDA of thiamine is sufficient and that any form of megadose would be of no physiological value. This is because the enzymes that require it cannot be accelerated in their function by introducing an excess of the vitamin. Remember from an earlier post that most vitamins are cofactors to enzymnes. This is essentially correct in healthy people whose diet has remained excellent over the years of life. We know from history that it required months of huge doses of thiamine to cure advanced beriberi and sometimes it was too late since there was permanent damage. The enzymes that require thiamine to function to full capacity begin to deteriorate when there is an overload of glucose and an insufficiency of the vitamin, as discussed in the “Choked Engine Syndrome” in an earlier post. In order to recuperate this efficiency, the enzyme needs to be “hit” with much larger doses of thiamine. The normal physiological mechanisms for absorbing dietary thiamine are inadequate for large doses and that is where allithiamine comes into the picture. Further research showed that this disulfide form of the vitamin did not need the complex biochemistry to absorb it into body cells.

A Vitamin B Research Committee was formed in Japan because of their vested interest in beriberi that was still seen quite commonly in 1965 when they published their work in Tokyo in a book entitled “Thiamine and Beriberi”. I was lucky to receive an English translation from one of the members of the Japanese committee. It has within its pages a cornucopia of information that is of vast importance in our modern era. The discovery of allithiamine sparked a long period of research that led to synthesis of a huge number of thiamine derivatives that can now be separated into a group of disulfides and non disulfides. The most efficient derivative is thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD). It is sold as a prescription item in Japan as Alinamin and also known elsewhere as Fursultiamine. The best known of the non disulfides is Benfotiamine. Alinamin is capable of entering the brain whereas it has been shown by a researcher in Belgium that Benfotiamine does not cross the blood brain barrier. This barrier is a normal physiological mechanism.

I want now to concentrate on TTFD since I have been studying its benefits for 38 years and have written many papers in the medical literature. It is not approved by the FDA in the United States in spite of its enormous therapeutic value because it is considered to be a drug. For an American drug company to import it, it would involve the millions of dollars for testing. The present model of disease demands that the drug must be virtually unique in the cure of a specific disease to warrant the expenditure and its recuperation in profits. The trouble with that is that the model itself is outmoded as indicated in an earlier post and the therapeutic properties of TTFD have biochemical implications that do not fit the model. The reason is that it addresses energy metabolism that is the underlying root of many (if not all) diseases and particularly those involving the brain.

We know that depletion of thiamine is the equivalent of oxygen deficiency since they are both essential ingredients of cellular energy production. Published material has shown that thiamine is involved in many brain diseases and that its administration as TTFD has shown some benefit in autism and even in Alzheimer disease. Japanese investigators have shown that it improves muscle function (I have treated Duchenne muscular dystrophy with partial success) and that it shortens the recovery time from post surgical paralysis of bowel function known as “post operative paralytic ileus”. Animal studies have shown that it removes lead and mercury from body tissues and also has anti-inflammatory properties. Amazingly,pretreatment of mice with TTFD partially protects the animal from cyanide death and liver damage from carbon tetrachloride administrations. Beriberi is the prototype of dysautonomia in its early stages and this category of disease is very common in America because of the huge ingestion of sugar as already discussed. It is my view that TTFD could easily be introduced to the United States under GRAS rules (generally regarded as safe) but our bureaucracy is stiffer that the proverbial poker. If there is a substance available in this cruel world that helps so-called untreatable disease, should we not welcome it? Even a 10 percent improvement, achieved cheaply and without toxic risk, is better than the status quo and we should be trying hard to find its full value in medicine. If it has indeed rendered the medical model outmoded, there is nothing more constant than change!

1 comment:

  1. nice blog great information

    Nutritional intervention is one of the key components of our scientific and holistic approach towards weight management and the associated medical conditions.