“Thiamine, thiamin or vitamin B1, named as the “thio-vitamine” (“sulfur-containing vitamin”) is a vitamin of the B complex. First named aneurin for the detrimental neurological effects if not present in the diet, it was eventually assigned the generic descriptor name vitamin B1. Its phosphate derivatives are involved in many cellular processes. The best-characterized form is thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), a coenzyme in the catabolism of sugars and amino acids…
All living organisms use thiamine, but it is synthesized only in bacteria, fungi, and plants. Animals must obtain it from their diet, and thus, for humans, it is an essential nutrient… Thiamine deficiency has a potentially fatal outcome if it remains untreated. In less severe cases, nonspecific signs include malaise, weight loss, irritability and confusion.
The stable and non-hygroscopic salt thiamine mononitrate is the vitamer used for flour and food fortification. Thiamine is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, a list of the most important medication needed in a basic health system.”
“A lack of thiamine can be caused by malnutrition, a diet high in thiaminase-rich foods (raw freshwater fish, raw shellfish, ferns) and/or foods high in anti-thiamine factors (tea, coffee, betel nuts) and by grossly impaired nutritional status associated with chronic diseases, such as alcoholism, gastrointestinal diseases, HIV-AIDS, and persistent vomiting. It is thought that many people with diabetes have a deficiency of thiamine and that this may be linked to some of the complications that can occur.” – Wikipedia
Causes of Low Thiamine Status
Thiamine absorption and activity can be hindered in multiple ways. Various factors can also increase the body’s demand for thiamine. All of these can contribute to a low thiamine status.
Factors that block thiamine:
- Sulfites: cleave the thiamine molecule and degrade it. This reaction increases in efficiency in acidic environments. Sulfites are added to wine and many foods. If you have a high sulfite intake, consider supplementing B1.
- Coffee & Tea: contain Anti-Thiamine Factors which inhibit the absorption of thiamine. Don’t take thiamine supplements with coffee and if you’re a big coffee drinker then you probably want to supplement.
- Raw Fish: contain an enzyme that breaks down thiamine.
- Tannic Acid: inhibits thiamine absorption. Wine, anyone?
- Alcohol: consumption uses up thiamine, so if you’re a drinker you probably want to supplement. Thiamine is often used in hangover remedies. Quite effectively, I might add.
- Low Magnesium: is common today and thiamine requires magnesium to be used within the cell. This is also exacerbated by alcohol consumption.
You can see that the standard american diet which often includes copious amounts of coffee and alcohol can keep thiamine levels low for various reasons. If you’re concerned about your thiamine status, supplementing might be a good idea or you might want to cut out the wine and coffee.
But who wants to do that? I just take 100mg/day. It’s low cost and easy.
What does thiamine help with?
You want to be sure you are getting enough thiamine. It’s very important.
It’s required for stomach acid production. Adequate stomach acid production is huge for those with heartburn/gerd, for GI and digestive problems, for nutrient deficiencies and for immunity. Here’s a study and another.
Insulin resistance is a huge problem. It leads to diabetes and weight problems. Thiamine has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and improve metabolism of glucose and fatty acids.
“Researchers have theorized that some people, and in particular, those with autoimmune diseases, may have a dysfunction or enzymatic imbalance that negatively affects the body’s ability to process thiamine at the cellular level.” – About.com
Hair loss? Maybe, some hairloss forums have posts about B1 helping to stop hairloss. Not much hard data on it though.
Thiamine could help with thyroid related issues. Hashimoto’s for example.
Thiamine is considered to be safe at relatively high doses, but here are some precautions from mayo clinic.
“Thiamine may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people who have low blood pressure or those taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
Caution is advised in people with diabetes or high blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar or that widen blood vessels.
Use cautiously in breastfeeding women, people who have abnormal heart rates, and those receiving chemotherapy.
Avoid high doses of thiamine injected into the vein or brain. Avoid doses higher than those found in marketed products, unless under the advice of a health professional.
Avoid in people with a known allergy or sensitivity to any parts in thiamine supplements.
Avoid using in the absence of vitamin B6 and nicotinamide, as life-threatening brain damage may occur.”