Vitamin B1 – Thiamine

To better understand what thiamine does in the body, consider the word that describes thiamine deficiency: beriberi. This Sinhalese word means, “I can’t, I can’t”. And people suffering from beriberi can’t do a lot. They are weak, fatigued and without appetite. They may have burning feet, cramps and mental confusion. But beriberi patients, even at the brink of death, suffering from severe fluid retention and completely incapacitated, can be on their feet and almost completely recovered within a couple hours after receiving a thiamine injection. Thiamine is essential for energy production.

Thiamine and Brain Function

Thiamine’s role in energy production has ramifications for the brain as well. Dramatically reduced thiamine intake severely limits the brain’s ability to use glucose. Without glucose, brain function becomes slow and impaired.

Thiamine is also used to synthesize critical neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, which is involved in memory, mood and mental performance. In an article published in the journal Psychopharmacolgy, researchers investigated the effects of long-term supplementation with nine vitamins, including thiamine. After 12 months, the researchers found that thiamine improved attention in female subjects. (Interestingly, the same effect did not occur in male subjects, although the researchers could not explain this difference).

In another study, published in the Journal of Gerontology, researchers reported that thiamine supplementation decreased fatigue and increased energy, appetite and general well-being in elderly women with mild thiamine deficiencies.

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