Vitamin B1 is a vital human nutrient that belongs to the Vitamin B complex. It plays an important role in maintaining a healthy nervous system and improving the cardiovascular functioning of the body.
Vitamin B1 is one of the eight water-soluble vitamins in the B complex family. It helps in the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose, which in turn is used to produce energy for carrying out various bodily functions. Vitamin B1 is also required for the breakdown of fats and protein.
In addition to these health benefits, it maintain the muscle tone along the walls of the digestive tract and promotes the health of the nervous system, skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver. It also improves the body’s ability to withstand stress and is often called the “anti-stress” vitamin.
Important Sources of Vitamin B1
Yeast and liver are the richest sources of Vitamin B1. Pork, whole-grain cereals, rye, wheat germ and kidney beans are also important sources of this vitamin. The list also includes asparagus, potatoes, mushrooms, romaine lettuce, spinach, tuna, green peas, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and eggplant. Adding these to your diet will ensure a healthy level of B1 vitamin. Unfortunately, overcooking and long term refrigeration can destroy Vitamin B1.
Vitamin B1 Deficiency Symptoms
Some of the early symptoms of deficiency might include lethargy, irritability, loss of memory, loss of sleep or appetite, weight loss, indigestion or constipation, and calf muscle tenderness. If left untreated these initial symptoms might lead to a more severe form of thiamin deficiency, known as beriberi. This condition is characterized by nerve, heart, and brain abnormalities, but the symptoms might vary in every person and depends on a number of factors. Some more examples are explained below.
Dry Beriberi: This condition might involve nerve and muscle abnormalities, a prickling sensation in the toes, a burning sensation in the feet at night, leg cramps and muscle atrophy.
Wet Beriberi: Common symptoms might include abnormally fast heart beat, fluid retention in the legs, pulmonary edema, and hypotension, which might result in shock and even death.
Brain Abnormalities: In alcoholics, thiamin deficiency might result in brain abnormalities such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Some of its common symptoms include haziness, involuntary eye movements, difficulty in walking and partial paralysis of the eyes among other debilitating symptoms. If ignored, these symptoms could become fatal. Some of the common symptoms of Korsakoff’s psychosis include loss of memory, incoherence and confabulation.
Infantile Beriberi: This variety is commonly seen in newborn children of women already suffering from thiamin deficiency who contract this condition from the mother’s milk. Heart failure, loss of reflexes and aphonia are some of the common symptoms, so be sure to have sufficient levels of vitamin B1 if you are pregnant.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1 helps in many important bodily functions and its benefits include the following.
Involved in Energy Production: Sugar is the principal source of energy in our body where it is oxidized to form a usable form of energy due to the presence of vitamin B1. It is part of a complex enzyme system called the pyruvate dehydrogenase system, which helps in the oxidation of sugar. Vitamin B1 is required for the functioning of this enzyme system, which releases energy for a variety of normal functions in the body.
Development of Myelin Sheaths: Vitamin B1 helps in the proper development of myelin sheaths around nerves. A deficiency of Vitamin B1 might result in the degeneration of these coverings, which can result in nerve death and damage.
Proper Cardiac Function: This vitamin helps in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is used to relay messages between the nerves and muscles and to ensure proper cardiac function. Vitamin B1 deficiency can therefore result in irregular cardiac functions. People suffering from congestive heart failure, when given vitamin B1 intravenously for seven days, showed considerable improvements in their echocardiograms, which proves that vitamin B1 can prevent heart disease.
Prevents Cataracts: When used along with other essential nutrients, Vitamin B1 can delay or prevent the occurrence of cataracts.
Anti-Aging Properties: Vitamin B1 works as a powerful antioxidant, which helps you protect your body from the signs of aging like wrinkles, age spots, and other age-related conditions that regularly affect the organ systems.
Ensures Proper Digestion: This vitamin also helps in the secretion of hydrochloric acid, which is essential for the complete digestion of food particles.
Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease: Vitamin B1 is thought to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. People suffering from this disease have benefited when treated with vitamin B1 supplements of 100 mg per day. There are placebo-controlled trial studies that are ongoing to determine more about the mechanism by which this occurs.
Improves Memory: Vitamin B1 can improve your memory and powers of concentration. It is also used in the management of many nervous disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy.
Vitamin B1 is better known as a “morale vitamin” for its positive impact on the nervous system and a healthy mental attitude.
Red Blood Cell Production: Vitamin B1 plays an important role in the production of red blood cells, which in turn keeps people healthy, active, and energized.
Alcoholism: Vitamin B1 can fend off the deficiencies caused by cirrhosis, infections, hyperthyroidism, and the other effects of alcoholism.
Improves Appetite: This vitamin can also significantly improve appetite and mental alertness.
Note: Vitamin B1 is a water soluble vitamin, and will be expelled through urine. Therefore, make sure to maintain a well balanced diet that can resupply the necessary amounts of vitamin B1 regularly.