Thiamine or otherwise known as vitamin B1 is used in combination with other vitamins of B complex to regulate important functions of cardiovascular, endocrine and digestive system. It is a water-soluble vitamin and is used in almost every cell in the body to maintain energy levels and a healthy metabolism.
Sources of thiamine
Thiamine is naturally found in many foods, however many foods are enriched with vitamin B1 to meet the recommended daily intake of the vitamin. The recommended amounts of thiamine can be met by eating foods from the following categories:
- Whole grains and fortified bread, cereals, pasta and rice
- Meat (especially pork) and fish
- Legumes (such as black beans and soy), seeds and nuts
Symptoms of deficiency
Obesity, high glucose levels and alcoholism are associated with decreased levels of thiamine in the blood serum and an increased risk of deficiency. Thiamine deficiency can cause weight and appetite loss, confusion, loss of memory, muscle weakness and heart problems. A serious deficiency of thiamine results in a disease called beriberi and is manifested by tingling and numbness in legs and arms, muscle loss and inadequate reflexes.
Actions of thiamine
1. Glucose metabolism
People with diabetes often have low levels of thiamine in their blood. Scientists are studying whether thiamine and benfothiamine supplements, a synthetic form of thiamine supplement, can improve blood sugar levels, glucose tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes, and diabetes-induced neuropathy.
2. Maintains a healthy metabolism
Thiamine is essential for the production of ATP, a molecule for energy production in mitochondria. It helps to convert carbohydrates to glucose, as well as break down proteins and fats. In addition, thiamine plays an important role in the production of red blood cells.
3. Nervous and mental function
Deficiency of vitamin B1 is associated with poor functioning of the nervous system and nervous lesions, affecting memory, learning ability and movement. Thiamine is essential for the action of neurotransmitters (acetylcholine) while helping to protect the neurons from lesions (myelin). Because of the above properties, it is believed that vitamin B1 may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease while helping to better concentration and learning.
4. Cardiovascular function
Many people with heart failure have low levels of thiamine. In order to maintain proper cardiac function and heart rate, nerves and muscles should be able to communicate with each other. Recent studies have shown that thiamine may be useful in fighting heart disease, as it helps to treat heart failure.
Alcohol adversely affects the body’s ability to absorb thiamine from food. Alcoholic people have thiamine deficiency and are at increased risk of developing a particular brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS).
The daily intake of vitamin B1 is 1.2mg and 1.1mg for adult men and women, respectively. Needs in pregnancy and lactation significantly increase (1.4mg) as it is necessary for fetal development.
In supplements, thiamine is available alone, in formulations with vitamins of B complex or multivitamin formulas. The most commonly used forms of thiamine in supplements are thiamine monosodium and thiamine hydrochloride. Benfotiamine is a synthetic thiamine derivative, that is converted to thiamine in the body.
Although thiamine does not interact with drugs, some drugs may have a negative effect on thiamine levels (furosemide or fluorouracil). People taking these medicines should contact their doctor.
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