5 Top Thiamine (Vitamin B1) Benefits, Sources & Deficiency

Thiamine Benefits

Vitamin B1 also referred to as Thiamine and Aneurin has many important benefits. It is one of the most important B group vitamins and it was the first discovered B vitamin too. It is a water soluble vitamin that has many important functions in our body. It gets absorbed into the blood from our gastrointestinal tract.

Once absorbed into the circulatory system it circulates freely without any carrier molecule and finally it gets excreted in the urine. Thiamine can be stored in the liver but it can be stored only for a short time, for a maximum of 18 days.

What is Vitamin B1?

Vitamin B1 was discovered by Eijkman in 1897. He observed that chickens that were fed polished rice developed symptoms similar to those of his patients suffering from beri beri. When they started feeding the chickens brown rice, the symptoms disappeared.

He found that something that was present in the outer layer of the rice protected the chickens from beri beri but he couldn’t isolate the compound successfully. Many years after his observation, in 1935, a person called William isolated it in crystalline form, he obtained 5 grams per ton of rice polishings and it was named Thiamine.

Now vitamin b1 is synthetically produced in laboratories at much cheaper price than the natural substance found in its pure state. Thiamine hydrochloride is a white crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water. When it is in powder form it is very stable but when it is dissolved in water it is destroyed very easily.

Vitamin B1 Uses

1. Essential For Carbohydrate Synthesis

Vitamin B1 is an essential cofactor for converting carbohydrates from the foods we eat into energy. After being taken up by the cells, thiamine is converted into biochemically active form called thiamine pyrophosphate. It acts as a coenzyme in 3 major pathways of glucose metabolism. Thiamine also aids digestion and it also improves peristalsis so it helps prevent constipation.

2. Has a Protective Effect On Our Nervous System

Thiamine helps provide energy to our nerve cells, this constant supply of energy is crucial to nerve cells to maintain their functions. Thiamine also has a protective effect on the nerve cells. Due to its antioxidative properties, it also prevents cell damage due to hyperglycemia.

3. Protects Our Heart

Thiamine protects our heart and it can also improve pumping power of the heart for people who are experiencing heart problems. It also prevents fluid retention which is common in people who are suffering from heart problems.

4. Improves Memory & Mood:

It is very important for the normal functioning of our entire nervous system and helps improve memory in people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Its deficiency can lead to lot of neurological problems. Thiamine deficiency causes beri beri which affects our peripheral nervous system and it also causes Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome that affects the brain leading to psychosis.

5. Prevents Premature Aging

Thiamine helps maintain normal red cell count and since it improves blood circulation, it helps helps us have a healthy skin. It prevents premature aging and deterioration of cognitive functioning associated with old age. It helps increase our stamina, prevents fatigue and improves our mental alertness too.

Factors Causing Thiamine Deficiency

  • Thiamine cannot be stored to a large extent in human body so adequate daily intake is very crucial. If we don’t consume thiamine rich foods on a regular basis, we will experience thiamine and efficiency.
  • Heat destroys vitamin b1, this loss of b vitamin is also amplified when the water in which the vegetables are cooked is discarded. Adding baking soda further destroys this vitamin.
  • Certain food products like tea, coffee, shellfish and raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminases which destroy thiamine.
  • Polishing the grains also destroys thiamine. Sadly consuming hand pounded rice which retains the important outer pericarp is diminishing and white rice consumption is getting more prevalent in India.
  • Malnutrition and gastric bypass surgery also leads to poor absorption of this important vitamin.
  • Chronic alcoholism is also an other factor leading to thiamine deficiency. Persistent vomiting and prolonged fasting can all lead to thiamine deficiency.
  • There is a significant loss of thiamine when we have chronic diarrhoea and certain drugs also can lead to thiamine deficiency like taking diuretics.
  • There is also thiamine loss during renal replacement therapy. Even when we consume adequate amount of vitamin b, if there is diminished absorption due to problems in the alimentary tract, it will interfere with normal absorption of vitamin b1 leading to vitamin B1 deficiency.
  • Thiamine intake should be more during pregnancy, lactation and if you are suffering from hyperthyroidism. Since it is crucial for carbohydrate metabolism, people who consume very high amounts of carbohydrates usually do not meet the required thiamine.

Vitamin B1 DosageDaily Requirement Of Vitamin B1

The recommended daily intake for adults over 18 year old are 1.2 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women. For children the recommended daily intake is .2 mg per day and the requirement steadily increases with age. Pregnant women should increase their daily intake of vitamin B1 to 1.4 mg.

Vitamin B1 Deficiency Symptoms

Mild deficiency of vitamin b1 usually goes unnoticed. One of the first symptoms of vitamin b1 deficiency is lack of appetite which is due to lack of proper carbohydrate metabolism. Other mild symptoms include digestive problems due to defective hydrochloric acid production, leg cramps, muscular weakness, hair loss, irritability, difficulties with short term memory, depression and weight loss.

Prolonged thiamine deficiency can lead to feeling of numbness and tingling sensation like pins and needles usually accompanied by pain, constipation, scanty hair, delirium, folic acid deficiency, delusional disorder, diabetic ketoacidosis, swollen hands and feet, chest pain, vertigo, double vision, memory loss and loss of sensation in extremities. Beriberi and wernicke’s encephalopathy are the two common diseases associated with vitamin b1 deficiency.


There are two types of beriberi: Wet beriberi and dry beri beri. Wet beriberi affects the heart and the circulatory system leading to heart failure. Heart failure due to cardiac enlargement is the common cause of death in beri beri. The right side of the heart fails due to odema (water retention) which leads to swelling. Dry beriberi affects the nervous system leading to diminished reflexes, depression and host of other neurological problems.

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy:

Causes lot of eye problems, altered mental states and cerebellar dysfunction.

Vitamin B1 Daily Dosage

Generally 50 mg of vitamin B1 is prescribed for heart disease. For numbness and tingling indigestion also 50 mg is usually prescribed but as part of a vitamin B supplement.  Vitamin B1 is usually safe as high doses of Vitamin B1 is secreted through urine but it is always best to consult a doctor before taking vitamin B1 supplement on a regular basis.

When To Take Vitamin B1 Supplement

Vitamin B1 is best absorbed in an acidic environment so it is advised to take it along with food when stomach acid is secreted for digesting food. People who drink lot of tea and coffee and alcohol on a regular basis and older people will benefit taking vitamin B1 supplement. If you are feeling depressed and moody lately for no reason at all, it is good to check your vitamin B1 levels as it is vital for good mental health.

Vitamin B1 Food Sources

The best way to consume adequate amount of vitamin B1 is by consuming whole grains without polishing them. Unpolished cereals, wheat bran and rice bran are good sources, polished cereals only contain traces of vitamin b1. Legumes like soya, vegetables like lotus stem and nuts like groundnuts, pistachios and cashew nuts are rich in vitamin B1. Fruits like pineapple and milk are rich in vitamin B1. Pork, liver, mutton and beef are good sources of vitamin B1 too.

Vitamin B1 Supplementation

1 Comment

  1. Mark Hotchkiss
    June 18, 2023 / 10:01 pm

    Where can I buy Sappanwood which is safe? There are many fakes out there. Can you help find a trustworthy vendor?
    Thank you

Leave a Reply