Vitamin B1 or Thiamine – What is it and what is it for?


When we talk about diet, we always keep in mind the need to follow a balanced diet to stay in line. The idea that a healthy mind needs a healthy body is something that has always been sold as a way to motivate people to take care of themselves with good nutrition and a constant exercise routine. However, the food we eat has a purpose that goes far beyond aesthetics. In fact, its usefulness is key for our body not only to improve, but also to function properly and without any problems.

Of all the sets of vitamins, nutrients and everything that food provides, vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, is one of the most important elements. Many people, when they hear its name, wonder what this variant of vitamin B is and what it is used for, and the truth is that its presence at the appropriate levels is key to our body’s stability. Let’s talk at length about this very special micronutrient, explaining from its main functions to its benefits, the foods you can find it in and even what problems it brings with it a deficit. Then you’ll understand why it’s so important.

What is vitamin B1 and what is it used for in our body?

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Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, is a subvariant of vitamin B that is, in turn, fundamental for the proper functioning of our entire body. Its deficiency is something that can cause central nervous system disorders, something that involves problems with depression, memory loss or even muscle weakness and tingling in the body.

Chemical compound

Structural formula of vitamin b1 or thiamine

  • ✅  Molar mass: 265,356 g/mol
  • ✅ Number CAS: 59-43-8
  • ✅  Other names: Thiamine
  • ✅  Semi-developed formula: C12H17N4OS+
  • ✅  Solubility in water and low solubility in 96% ethanol
  • ✅  Melting point: 521-533 K (-285 °C)

Its usefulness is therefore unquestionable. Thiamine is necessary for the proper functioning of our central nervous system and, in turn, also for the metabolism of certain foods that we consume daily, especially those that contain carbohydrates and proteins. It is also a water-soluble vitamin (dissolves in water) and insoluble in alcohol.

Below, we will explain the main functions and benefits of vitamin B1.

Main functions and benefits of thiamine

The most important functions of thiamine involve, as we have previously said, the metabolism of food and even the development and proper functioning of our body.

Here we review their functions:

  • Metabolism: This is a key participant in metabolizing carbohydrates, amino acids and pyruvate. It is, therefore, one of the factors that ensures that we receive the necessary energy for our body to function, especially the central nervous system and the brain.
  • Coenzyme: also acts as the coenzyme necessary for tissue respiration, which is carried out between the blood and the different tissues of the body.
  • Growth: Without this vitamin, there is no guarantee that a person can grow and develop normally. Their role has an influence in this field too.

After reviewing its most important functions, we will proceed with the benefits that thiamine offers to our body:

  • Prevention of nervous system damage: by providing energy through food metabolization, it helps prevent any possible damage to both nerves and the brain (central nervous system). Inconveniences that could even reduce the mobility of the body.
  • Prevention of vision problems: it has been proven that vitamin B1 is involved in the fight against such annoying and specific problems as glaucoma or cataracts.
  • Healthy metabolism: this intervenes in the generation of red blood cells, but, in turn, allows the body to convert all the carbohydrates, fat and even the proteins ingested into energy to supply the cells inside us.
  • Prevention of brain problems: the connection between the brain and the body is maintained much better thanks to this vitamin. Thanks to it, we can stop the appearance of memory problems and, above all, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Improvement of the immune system: B1, among other things, also takes care of digestive health, keeping the muscles involved in digestion always strong and helping in the segregation of the acid needed to digest food (hydrochloric acid). By intervening in this way and in this process, it ensures that our immune system is always well supplied with nutrients and that our defences do not weaken.
  • Improves the health of the cardiovascular system: not only does it improve, it also helps to maintain the health of our cardiovascular system in good condition. This vitamin also secretes some of the energy that our heart, or rather its heart muscles, needs to maintain a stable beat rate. In fact, it even influences ventricular function.
  • Helps concentration and learning: it also generates the energy we need to increase concentration in the tasks we are doing, as well as reducing memory loss, facilitating rapid reaction and preventing chronic stress. With this mixture, it makes the learning process completely easier.

Vitamin B1 source – What foods contain it and where is it found?

Main food sources of vitamin b1 and thiamin

Given the importance of B1, it is normal to wonder what foods it is abundant in. There are many, both of animal and plant origin, that have a high vitamin B1 content. Because of this, maintaining a normal (preferably balanced) diet makes it easy to get enough of this micronutrient.

Below, we explain the main foods in which it can be found in greater percentage:

Food of animal origin

Most diets today have a high rate of foods of animal origin among those that should be eaten. Thiamine is present in many of them, although its levels are notably lower than those that can be recorded in plant food. Pork and fish such as grouper or sea bass are the foods with the highest percentage of B1.

We review the 10 foods of animal origin (six meats and four fish) with the highest levels of vitamin B1 among their qualities:

Meat

  1. Pig’s trotters: (1 mg/100 g).
  2. Pork loin: (1 mg/100 g).
  3. Pork chops: (0,90 mg/100 g).
  4. Lean pork: (0,89 mg/100 g).
  5. Semi-fattened pig: (0,70 mg/100 g).
  6. Cooked ham: (0,65 mg/100 g).

Fish

  1. Fresh roe: (1 mg/100 g).
  2. Grouper/Sea bass/Sea bream: (0,80 mg/100 g).
  3. Tuna: (0,30 mg/100 g).
  4. Conger eel: (0,28 mg/100 g).

The hands and loin of pork, along with fresh roe, are the ones with the highest vitamin content when referring to B1. Although they appear to be quite high figures, when we look at vegetable foods we can see that they have higher percentages.

Food of vegetable origin

Within the spectrum of vegetable foods, thiamine is most abundant in cereals, dried beans, nuts, sesame seeds and even brewer’s yeast. In fruit, however, it appears in very small quantities. Of all the above, it is brewer’s yeast and wheat germ that have the most.

Here is a list of the 10 vegetable foods with the highest vitamin B1 content:

  1. Brewer’s yeast: (5,1 mg/100 g).
  2. Wheat germ: (2 mg/100 g).
  3. Sesame seeds – Sesame seeds: (1,2 mg/100 g).
  4. Soya: (0,85 mg/100 g).
  5. Brussels sprouts: (0,8 mg/100 g).
  6. Dried peas: (0,7 mg/100 g).
  7. Pistachios: (0,69 mg/100 g).
  8. Peanuts / Hazelnuts: (0,6 mg/100 g).
  9. Beans: (0,54 mg/100 g).
  10. Oats: (0,5 mg/100 g).

Others such as rye, millet and corn also have a high content of this nutrient in their composition. Consuming them frequently is a good way to maintain vitamin B1 levels in the proper spectrum to ensure the well-being of our body and mind.

Infographics: Foods with the highest amount of Vitamin B1

Infographics: Foods with the highest amount of Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 deficiency – What symptoms or illnesses can we suffer from thiamine deficiency?

We have already talked about the importance of vitamin B1 and how necessary it is for the proper functioning and well-being of our body. It is therefore easy to conclude that their absence may endanger our health, resulting in unprofitable results in the medium or long term.

As indicated by medical specialists, severe thiamine or B1 deficiency is known as beriberi. Named after the Sinhalese term “beri” (lit.: “I can’t”) because of the intense fatigue and slowness of the movements of the affected people, it has two specific variations, established according to the conditions presented: wet beriberi and dry beriberi.

In addition, it is possible to encounter cases in which it is a hereditary issue (known as genetic beriberi), in which the body itself has difficulty absorbing thiamine from food.

Let’s explain the two types of beriberi. Each of them is defined by the systems it affects within us and, since both of them are serious vitamin deficiencies, they require medical attention as soon as possible.

Dry Beriberi

This disease is mainly manifested by a condition in the nervous system, especially in the nerves of the legs and arms (extremities).

The main symptoms of dry beriberi are as follows:

  • Loss of sensation in hands and feet.
  • Pain in the extremities.
  • Nystagmus: Strange eye movements.
  • Tingling, especially in the legs and arms.
  • Difficulty walking correctly.
  • Loss of muscle function and, in more extreme cases, paralysis of the lower limbs.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Speech difficulties.
  • Mental confusion.

Wet Beriberi

Wet beriberi is a pathology whose effect is focused on the cardiovascular system. As previously indicated, thiamine is fundamental for the proper functioning of this system of our body, so its lack leads to serious problems that even affect the sleep cycle.

Symptoms that betray this condition include the following:

  • Excessive increase in heart rate, rapid heart rate.
  • Swelling in the extremities of the lower body.
  • Waking up at night with breathing difficulties.
  • Breathing difficulties when carrying out any type of activity.

Although the cases of beriberi are the most alarming, there are also other symptoms linked to vitamin B1 deficiency. If a balanced and reasonable diet is maintained, it is difficult to encounter this problem, unless we are dealing with a hereditary case; however, it is also advisable to indicate what kind of symptoms a person may present without adequate levels of thiamine.

General symptoms

From excessive fluid retention in the body, due to insufficient metabolism, to depression or heartburn. The range of possibilities is wide enough to pay special attention.

Tiredness and fatigue are symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency

  • Dementia: Because thiamine helps the brain function properly by providing energy, its absence can facilitate loss of sanity.
  • Retention of fluids in the body: by not providing sufficient assistance to the heart and its activity, it causes us to begin to retain more fluids than usual when ingesting diuretics and other products.
  • Alcohol intoxication and addiction: Alcohol intake inhibits the abilities of thiamine. In the absence of this, our body is weaker to the effect of alcoholic beverages, which can lead to serious cases of alcoholism.
  • Difficulty in recovering from illness and operations: it has been proven that, with adequate levels of B1, recovery from a post-operative or chronic illness is easier. If it is missing, the situation becomes more complicated and prolonged, and may even get worse.
  • Depression: The absence of this vitamin element can lead to a mental and emotional imbalance that leads to depression. In fact, even the use of vitamin B1 supplements is recommended in situations of high stress.
  • Problems in pregnancy and breastfeeding: At these important and dangerous stages in a woman’s life, maintaining thiamine levels is crucial. Not having rates within the proper range can result in a lack of important nutrients for both the pregnant woman and the baby, as well as other problems.
  • Acidity in the stomach: without this necessary vitamin intake, the rate of gastric acids secreted by the stomach increases considerably (since it influences its control). This can even lead to ulcer cases.

Recommended daily amounts and doses of vitamin B1

According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the Nutrition Department of the IOM (Institute of Medicine), the recommended daily amounts and doses of vitamin B1 in children, men, women and pregnant women (also while breastfeeding) are governed by the following table of ages and amounts.

Age

Men (mg/day)

Women (mg/day)

Up to 6 months

0,2 mg

0,2 mg

From 7 to 12 months

0,3 mg

0,3 mg

From 1 to 3 years

0,5 mg

0,5 mg

From 4 to 8 years old

0,6 mg

0,6 mg

From 9 to 13 years old

0,9 mg

0,9 mg

From 14 to 18 years old

1,2 mg

1,0 mg

From 19 to 70 years old

1,2 mg

1,1 mg

Pregnancy and lactation period

1,4 mg

As important data to note, we have that adults move on an average of 1.15 mg of thiamine daily. The equivalent, if we stick to the food data, would be 120 grams of pork loin (per day) or 57.5 grams of wheat oats. A hearty breakfast could provide enough of the vitamin we need for the proper functioning of our body.

To date, no cases of vitamin B1 toxicity have been reported. As it is a water-soluble component (it dissolves in water), all its excesses end up being eliminated through the urine that the body expels. However, there have been cases of seizures, allergic reactions, muscle weakness, heart rhythm disturbances, or even headaches with thiamine injections 100 times higher (120 grams for men, 110 grams for women) than the recommended daily amount.

Although no other problems have been encountered due to exceeding the recommended minimum intake, it is advisable to always act with caution and avoid exceeding it too much. Exceeding the rates is never beneficial for our body, even when it is a substance as benevolent as this one we are dealing with.

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Did you know all the virtues of this important B vitamin? Do you think you take enough daily as recommended by the suggested data? Give us your opinion, it will surely be of great help to the other members of the community!

If you found it helpful or have any questions, please comment and share, thank you! 😃

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