Thiamine (B1) - Another Important B Vitamin

Sep 3, 2019

Vitamin B12 gets always gets the attention. It's commonly looked at on your lab work by your health care professional, most people know that it is needed for red blood cell production, and without red blood cells your body cannot carry oxygen and nutrients to the cells. However, there are other B vitamins and when a patient with thiamine deficiency came into the pharmacy, I thought hey; maybe we should talk about this one! Thiamine is required by our bodies to properly use carbohydrates, fats and protein. Basically, it turns these nutrients into energy. Sounds important and it is.

Thiamine as mentioned is a B vitamin, specifically referred to as vitamin B1. Vitamin B1 is found in many foods in various amounts cereal grains, beans, nuts, and meat. The highest thiamine containing foods, which caught my eye were macadamia nuts, lentils, beans and roasted pork loin. It is even found in yeast. Many breakfast cereals and enriched flours have added Vitamin B1. As we will discuss further, it is also available in supplement form. B1 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is not stored in the body and needs to be consumed daily. Lacking vitamin B1 can have some serious consequences. Deficiency syndromes include beriberi. What is referred to as wet beriberi will affect the heart and circulatory system. Dry beriberi is an attack on and inflammation of the nerves, causing loss of muscle function and perhaps even paralysis. With our fortified diets in our society most cases of beriberi are only seen with alcohol use disorder. This is where it is important to note excessive alcohol intake will make it extremely difficult for your body to absorb and store proper amounts of thiamine.

Thiamine deficiency is also like to various digestive problems including poor appetite, ulcerative colitis, and ongoing diarrhea. Thiamine supplementation has been used for boosting the immune system, assisting in the treatment of diabetic pain, heart disease, alcoholism, aging, preventing canker sores and it may decrease the risk of vision problems such as cataracts and glaucoma. B1 is also found in many natural products developed to thiamine for maintaining a positive mental attitude, enhancing learning abilities, increasing energy, fighting stress and preventing memory loss. You may have seen B1 patches with claims of keeping mosquitos away, but I could not find any great evidence on this theory.

Diet wise adults need 1-2 mg of thiamine per day, as a common reference range. For adults with mild thiamine deficiency the usual dose is anywhere from 5-30 mg daily in either a single dose or divided doses for a month or until levels increase to an acceptable level. For those with severe deficiency, doses up to 300 mg per day can be required. The standard dose for thiamine pills is 100mg taken once per day to make sure you absorb enough of it. It is available in the generic form and it relatively inexpensive. Thiamine is also often used in combination with other B vitamins and found in many vitamin B complex products. If purchasing a vitamin B complex product, make sure you read the side of the label to see how much thiamine is contained in each pill. Some are labeled as stress reducers and energy increasers, but just be cautious these supplements may help, but will likely not make miracles and they are more expensive.

While thiamine deficiency is quite uncommon in Canada, it is still something we need to watch out for, especially with a surge in "paleo" carb free diets which would avoid supplemented foods. If you ever have any nutritional questions or questions related to vitamins and supplements your clinic pharmacy can help.


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