The research item is actually talking about something that has been evolving since some originally JDRF sponsored research by a Dr. Brownlee on benfotiamine. That research has evolved into the study of the combination of Alpha Lipoic Acid and Benfotiamine.
The first thing I need to say is right now, there is no proof that there is any clinical benefit at all in people. The theory is that the complications in diabetes are due to a series of chemical reactions - one sets off the next, which sets off the next which sets off the problems. The idea, on paper initially was that if thiamine was introduced before the reactions got started that as they got under way, the thiamine would react with the substances produced as the chemical reactions started and create non-harmful things instead of continuing down the path of destructive components. The first trial was a total bust. They believed their equations were good and then it occurred to them that thiamine is flushed from the system pretty quickly. It was at this point that one of the team remembered that the Japanese had been using a form of fat-soluble thiamine called benfotiamine to treat alcoholic neuropathies. The advantage to using a fat soluble form is that it would stay in the system longer and was more likely to be available at the right time.
The trial in rats was impressive- avoiding the diabetes complications of kidney and eye damage at every testable level. Later (much later) they started evaluating the chemistry in people. What they found was that it didn’t seem to short-circuit the chemical reaction the way they had seen it in rats… That is when they tried adding the sustained release Alpha Lipoic Acid. With this addition, it seems they had an impact at the chemical level. This does not mean it prevents complications or has any effect on them. It does mean they think it could have an effect. Whether there are any side effects, or any negative effects – they have not tested for any of these things. There is no clinical evidence that it will have any benefit to people – there is, right now, some suspicion that it may help and there is no evidence that it will hurt.
On an editorial note, I take these two things as part of my supplement regimen but I am long past growing and my brain changes are limited to learning with no more gain in size or maturation. If my son is diagnosed, I believe I would be hesitant to put him on something that was not yet fully vetted by clinical trials and some long term studies.
This is my understanding as best I have been able to interpret what I have read. That said, I am only as good as my ability to interpret what I have read and I am not trained in any of these areas so I am out of my element. I hope anything I have wrong or misinterpreted someone else can jump in and correct…
P.S. - I think there are some other benefits to ALA - but I don't remember what I read...