Vitamin B1, also called THIAMINE or ANEURINE or ANTI-BERI-BERI is a water soluble vitamin and one of the essential B-group vitamins the body needs to function well. It cannot be synthesized (produced) by human body and should be supplied in the diet.

Recommended dietary allowance  (RDA) for men 19 and older is 1.2 mg daily, and for women 19 and older 1.1 mg daily. The daily dose is increased for pregnant and lactating women to 1.4 mg to enable mother and baby convert carbohydrates into energy. Daily requirement for adults is 1.0 - 1.5 mg (not more than 2.5 mg can be absorbed from a single dose) and 0.4 - 1.3 mg for children. Vitamin B1 intake should increase when carbohydrate intake is high.

Foods rich in vitamin B1 include pork and other types of meat, fish, potatoes, wheat, nuts, beans , lentils, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified noodles, fortified rice, sunflower seeds, yogurt, beef, offal, poultry, wholegrain cereals, rice, nutritional yeast etc. Other sources of vitamin B1 include supplements.

Vitamin B1 gets easily depleted from the body and needs to be replenished daily, especially, for those prone to risk of its deficiency.

Its functions include, but not limited to:

  1. Enabling the body to use carbohydrates as energy;
  2. Helping stabilize one’s mood by fighting symptoms of depression;
  3. Improving high blood sugar and insulin levels and thereby helping with Type 2 diabetes;
  4. Helping reduce high blood pressure and heart complications in people with diabetes;
  5. Reducing nerve pain in diabetic patients when combined with vitamin B12;
  6. Helping concentration and memory.

The following are some factors that can lead to deficiency of vitamin B1:

  1. Low intake of the vitamin in foods (malnutrition);
  2. Decreased absorption of the vitamin in the gut (due to surgery in bariatric patients);
  3. Increased losses in urine as with alcoholics and those on medications such as diuretics;
  4. Undergoing dialysis for kidney disease;
  5. Drinking lots of coffee or tea (including decaffeinated).

Deficiencies of Vitamin B1 mainly cause the 2 types of Beri-Beri – wet Beri-Beri which affects the heart and dry Beri-Beri which affects the nervous tissues. This results to loss of appetite, muscle weakness, diminished feeling in the hands and feet, and burning sensation in the feet and weakened immune system. It also results to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome that may cause confusion, loss of muscle coordination, and peripheral neuropathy.


It must be noted that foods rich in vitamin B1 should not be overcooked because it can be destroyed by prolonged or excess heat as it is soluble and will be lost in any cooking or soaked water that is thrown away.

Treatment of vitamin B1 deficiency involves a high intake of thiamine supplement or injection administered through the vein along with balanced diet. Toxicity of the vitamin is unlikely as the body naturally flushes out any excess through the urine.

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