Vitamin B1, Thiamine

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is an essential nutrient for humans responsible for proper energy production in every cell of the body, but especially in the heart and brain. It is essential for digesting carbohydrates and plays an important role in the regulation of glucose metabolism and functioning of the pancreas. Severe vitamin B1 deficiency causes a disease called beriberi. symptoms include mental confusion, difficulty breathing, and uncontrolled eye movements. A common deficiency of vitamin B1 usually results in fatigue, depression, pins and needles sensations or numbness in the legs, and constipation. Individuals with thiamine deficiency have difficulty digesting carbohydrates. As a result, a substance called pyruvic acid builds up in the bloodstream, causing a loss of mental alertness, difficulty breathing, and heart damage. Thiamine deficiency can be difficult to diagnose and many cases remain undiagnosed. Treatment with thiamine generally results in a dramatic improvement.

Rich sources of Vitamin B1

Rich sources of Vitamin B1 include sunflower seeds, peanuts, and soybeans. Good sources are whole wheat, nuts and meats (especially pork and beef). Vitamin B1 is extremely sensitive to alcohol and sulfites and in the presence of either it is destroyed. Thiamine is also destroyed by antithiamine in uncooked freshwater fish and shellfish, and in black tea. There is no known toxicity due to thiamine.

What May Cause Thiamine Deficiency?

1. Poor nutrition - people who get most of their calories from sugar and fat are at greater risk to develop thiamine deficiency. Many adult Americans do not consume the RDA of 1.5 milligrams and are at risk of developing severe neurological and cardiac disorders. Alcoholics are most at risk to develop the Wernicke-Korsakoff disease, a severe, potentially fatal degenerative brain disorder.

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Vitamin B1 Quick Calculator

So, what daily foods can supply the recommended 1.5 milligrams of vitamin B1 and give you that blissful peace of mind and a great feeling of being full of energy? Here is a selection of some foods that can be substituted for similar products in the same category, such as nuts, or grains:

  • Sunflower seeds - 1 ounce (.41 mg)
  • Peanuts with skin - 1 ounce (0.3 mg)
  • Whole wheat bread - 2 slices ((0.33 mg)
  • Cashews - 1 ounce (0.14 mg)
  • Navy beans - 2 ounces (0.30 mg)

2. Drug interference - Individuals who take diuretics (medications used to treat heart failure, liver cancer, high blood pressure and certain kidney diseases) usually have thiamine deficiency and often need supplementation of vitamin B1 to restore balance.

3. Food preservatives interference - Thiamine deficiency can be caused by inactivation of thiamine by high concentrations of the preservative sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is added to food in the form of sulfites which include sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulphite (potassium hydrogen sulphite), potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulphite, sodium metabisulfite, sodium sulphite, calcium sulphite and calcium hydrogen sulphite. Sulfites are widely used in foods that include dried fruit and vegetables, wine, soft drinks, juices and meat products, such as sausages and hotdogs, to prevent melanosis ("black spot") on shrimp and lobster, to "condition" dough, to bleach food starches, and to inhibit "browning" in bottled lemon juice and virtually all processed potatoes. FDA prohibits the use of sulfites in raw foods and in important sources of thiamine such as meats. In all food products containing at least 10 ppm, sulfite must be declared and cannot exceed 200 to 300 ppm, depending on the food. Products with undeclared sulfites are subject to recalls according to the FDA's policies.

Sulfite preservatives in both foods and medications have also been associated with aggravation of asthma in children and adults in many countries over many years. With the realisation that children eat and drink significantly more than adults proportional to their body weight and consequently take in more food additives, they are at greater risks to develop thiamine deficiency.

In a pilot research involving autistic children with thiamine deficiency thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide appeared to have a beneficial effect: 8 of the 10 children improved clinically.



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