A form of vitamin B1 that is sold as a supplement increases stamina in rats, write Japanese researchers in Nutrition Research. Rats that are given allithiamine are capable of swimming for longer.
Japanese researchers discovered allithiamine – full name thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide – in the 1950s in garlic. The structural formula is shown above. It is a form of vitamin B1 that cells absorb more easily than ordinary vitamin B1, or thiamine as B1 is called.
Enzymes that generate energy from nutrients need thiamine. That is the reason that supplements manufacturers have often played with the idea that vitamin B1 supplements should improve performance. In most trials, however, the effects have been disappointing. Either there is no improvement in performance or only a modest one. One that falls in the latter category is – another – Japanese study, in which athletes recovered from exercise slightly faster when they took 100 mg thiamine every day. [Metab Brain Dis. 1996 Mar;11(1):95-106.]
Studies like this are the reason that sports scientists and supplements manufacturers have pinned their hopes on thiamine analogues, many of which are based on the allithiamine found in garlic. One example is sulbutamine, the active ingredient in preparations like Arcalion and Fortega. Another analogue is benfotiamine.
But back to the animal study. The researchers gave their lab rats for five days either nothing, 50 mg thiamine/kg bodyweight or 50 mg allithiamine/kg bodyweight. Then they tied a weight to the animals’ tail and made them swim in water. The researchers recorded how long the animals were able to keep swimming. The results are shown below. Thiamine did not have a statistically significant effect, but allithiamine did.
When the researchers examined the rats’ body tissue, they discovered how the vitamin analogue works. In the blood, brains, muscles, heart, liver and kidneys of the rats that had been given allithiamine, the concentration of thiamine triphosphate had increased considerably – more than in the animals that were given ordinary thiamine. Thiamine triphosphate is the compound that the body converts thiamine into, and it’s the compound that the body needs to get energy out of food.
Nutr Res. 2009 Dec;29(12):867-72.