Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

Thiamin was the first B vitamin discovered. Therefore it has been named Vitamin B1

In Asia when white rice became more popular than brown rice, people started to develop a nerve damage disease called beriberi. Researchers accidentally discovered that chicken recovered from beriberi by eating brown rice. Indeed, vitamin B1 is found in cereal's germ which white rice is devoted since it has been polished.

Beriberi is rare but is still seen in developing countries as well as in alcoholics and people with diseases that significantly impair the body's ability to absorb vitamin B1

Since thiamin is a water-soluble vitamin, it is excreted via the urine and cannot be stored. It must be supplied daily.

It is essential for energy production, carbohydrate and alcohol metabolism, and nerve function.
Along with other B-vitamins, thiamin converts glucose (blood sugar) into energy in all the cells of our body.
Thiamin is particularly important for the normal functioning of nerves; it is necessary for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which affects several brain functions including memory.
It is vital for normal development, growth, reproduction, healthy skin and hair, blood production and immune function


People who are doing a lot of exercise and by the fact have higher intake of carbohydrate have higher needs in Vitamin B1.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
mg per day
Babies 0 to 1 years
Children 1 to 3 years
Children 4 to 6 years
Children 7 to 9 years
Children 10 to 12 years
Teenager boys 13 to 19 years
Teenager girls 13 to 19 years
Pregnant women
Nursing mother

Who is at risk of deficiency?
Digestive diseases such as colitis, diverticulosis, Crohn's disease, celiac disease and chronic diarrhea reduce thiamin absorption as do kidney problems, anorexia and folate deficiencies.
Alcoholics and those who drink soft drinks and eat food made with unenriched white flour are at risk.
A diet containing excessive amounts of sugar can cause a thiamin deficiency.

Deficiency symptoms
An anemia in thiamin can lead to:

The worst case is beriberi: this disease involves extensive damage to the nervous and cardiovascular systems and could results in paralysis.

The combination of alcohol and thiamin deficiency in alcoholics can produce Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a serious brain disorder

Good vegetarian sources
The richest food sources of Vitamin-B1 are Brewer's and nutritional yeast.
Good sources are legumes, whole grains, unrefined cereals, rice bran, seeds (sesame, sunflower...), Brazil nuts and peanuts.
Other sources are figs, orange, pineapple, watermelon, potatoes and peas.

It is a water-soluble vitamin and thus it is quickly lost into cooking water. It is also destroyed by heat. If you have chosen to eat whole wheat bread for its high amounts in vitamin B1, do not toast it if you do not want to lose anymore of this vitamin.
Tea and alcohol inhibit its absorption as well as large intakes of raw fish and shellfish.
Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, there are no known toxic effects associated with thiamin.

Realized by Laurence LIVERNAIS-SAETTEL, Dietitian.
© Copyright L. Livernais-Saettel 2000
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