Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) : Health Benefits of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1, a vital human nutrient belongs to the Vitamin B complex. It plays an important role in maintaining a healthy nervous and cardiovascular functioning of the body.

Vitamin B1 is one of the eight water-soluble vitamins in the B complex family. It helps in the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose, which in turn is used to produce energy for carrying out various body functions. Vitamin B1 is required for the breakdown of fats and protein. In addition to these vitamins maintain the muscle tone along the wall of the digestive tract and promote the health of the nervous system, skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver. It also improves the body to withstand stress and is often called “anti-stress” vitamin

Vitamin B1 helps in many important body functions and some of its benefits would include the following.

  • Involved in the energy production: Sugar is the principal source of energy in your body where it is oxidized to form usable form of energy in the presence of vitamin B1. It is part of a complex enzyme system called the pyruvate dehydrogenase system, which helps in the oxidation of sugar. Vitamin B1 is required for the functioning of this enzyme system, which releases energy for the normal functions of the body.
  • Helps in the development of myelin sheaths: Vitamin B1 helps in the proper development of myelin sheaths around nerves. Deficiency of Vitamin B1, might result in the degeneration of these coverings, which might result in nerve death and damage.
  • Ensures proper cardiac function: This vitamin helps in the production of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is used to relay messages between the nerves and muscles and to ensure proper cardiac function. Vitamin B1 deficiency can thus result in irregular cardiac functions. People suffering from congestive heart failure, when administered vitamin B1 intravenously for seven days, showed considerable improvements in their echocardiograms, which proves that vitamin B1, can prevent heart disease.
  • Prevents cataracts: When used along with other essential nutrients, Vitamin B1 can stall the occurrence of cataracts.
  • Reduces the effects of aging: It is a powerful anti-oxidant, which helps you from the ill effects of aging.
  • Ensures proper digestion: It helps in the secretion of hydrochloric acids, which is essential for the complete digestion of food particles.
  • Prevents Alzheimer’s disease: Vitamin B1 is thought to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Persons suffering from this disease condition have benefited when vitamin B1 supplements of 100 mg per day were administered. However, there are placebo-controlled trial studies till now to authenticate this claim.
  • Improves memory: Vitamin B1 can improve your memory and concentration. It is also used in the management of many nervous disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy among others. Function: Vitamin B1 is better known as “morale vitamin” for its positive impact on the nervous system and a healthy mental attitude.
  • Helps in the production of red blood cells: Vitamin B1 has an important role in the production of RBC, which in turn keeps the person healthy and active.
  • Restores deficiencies caused by alcoholism: Vitamin B1 can even off the deficiencies caused by cirrhosis, infections, hyperthyroidism or alcoholism.
  • Improves appetite: It can significantly improve appetite and mental alertness

Deficiency symptoms: Some of the early symptoms might include lethargy, irritability, loss of memory, loss of sleep or appetite, weight loss, indigestion or constipation, and calf muscle tenderness. If left untreated these initial symptoms might lead to a more severe form of thiamin deficiency, known as beriberi characterized by nerve, heart, and brain abnormalities. However the symptoms might vary in different forms.

  • Dry Beriberi: Might involve nerve and muscle abnormalities, prickling sensation in the toes, and burning sensation in the feet especially at night, leg cramps and muscle atrophy.
  • Wet Beriberi: Common symptoms might include abnormally fast heart beats, fluid retention in the legs, pulmonary edema, hypotension, which might result in shock and eventual death.
  • Brain Abnormalities: In habitual alcoholics, Thiamin deficiency might result in brain abnormalities such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Some of its common symptoms include haziness, involuntary eye movements, difficulty in walking and partial paralysis of the eyes among others. If ignored these symptoms could become fatal. Some of the common symptoms of Korsakoff’s psychosis include loss of memory, incoherence and confabulation.
  • Infantile Beriberi: Commonly seen in newborn children of women already suffering from thiamin deficiency, who could contract this condition from the mother’s milk. Heart failure, loss of reflexes and aphonia are some of the common symptoms.

Important Sources: Yeast and liver are the richest sources of Vitamin B1. Pork, whole-grain cereals rye, wheat germ and kidney beans are also rich in this vitamin. Including asparagus, mushrooms, romaine lettuce, spinach, tuna, green peas, and sunflower seeds, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and eggplant in your diet might ensure a steady supply of B1 vitamin. Over cooking and long term refrigeration might destroy Vitamin B1.

Note:  Most fruits and vegetables are not a significant source of thiamine.  Here are the following  foods that have a significant amount: 

Fruits  Source :  (Apricots, Avocado, Boysenberries, Breadfruit, Coconut, Cherimoya, Dates, Grapes, Grapefruit, Guava , Loganberries, Mango, Orange, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Raisins and Watermelon)

Vegetable Source  :  (Asparagus, Broccoli,  Brussels Sprouts,  Butternut Squash,  Collards Greens, Cauliflower,  Corn, French Beans, Kale,  Lima Beans,  Mushrooms,  Mustard Greens, Okra, Parsnips, Peas, Potatoes , Spirulina  and Sweet Potato)

Nut/Grain Source : ( Barley, Brazil Nuts,  Buckwheat, Cashews,  Chestnuts,  Flax Seed,  Filberts/Hazelnuts, Macadamia Nuts,  Millet,  Oats,  Peanuts,  Pecans,  Pine Nuts/Pignolias,  Pistachios,  Quinoa,  Rice Brown,  Rye, Spelt,  Walnut, Wheat – Durum,  Wheat – Hard Red , Wheat – Hard White)

Legume Sources: (Black Beans,  Black Eye Peas,  Kidney Beans,  Navy Beans,  White Beans, Winged Beans)



Food for thought : As it is a water soluble vitamin, it will be expelled through urine. So, make sure to maintain a well balanced diet that can supply the requisite amounts of vitamin regularly.



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