Thiamine gives you more energy and keeps your brain healthy


Thiamine (Vitamin B1) was discovered by two Dutch researchers, Christiaan Eijkman, and Gerrit Grijns, in 1897. Eijkman and Grijns were studying chickens in Java and noticed that chickens fed a diet of white rice developed symptoms similar to those of beriberi. After further investigation, they determined that an unknown factor in the unpolished rice was responsible for the disease, and the factor was later named thiamine. In 1926, Barend Jansen and Willem Donath isolated and crystallized a substance that cured polyneuritis in pigeons. Robert Williams synthesized thiamin in 1936. This led to the development of thiamine-enriched foods, greatly reducing the incidence of beriberi and other deficiency diseases.
Thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin your body needs for growth, development, and cellular function, as well as converting food into energy. As it is water-soluble, it can not be stored in your body, so you need to consume it on a regular basis.

Thiamine health benefits

  1. It plays an important role in energy metabolism, helping to convert carbohydrates into energy. It works by helping to convert glucose, a simple sugar, into energy that can be used by the cells. The body also needs thiamine to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is a molecule that transports energy within cells.
  2. Thiamine also plays a critical role in maintaining the health of the nervous system. It is essential for the proper functioning of the brain and the nerves. It is important for maintaining the integrity of the myelin sheath, which is a protective coating around nerve fibers. This helps to ensure proper nerve conduction and communication between the brain and the rest of the body. It is also involved in the production of some neurotransmitters.
  3. It also helps to maintain the health of the heart and the muscles. Thiamine can help to maintain proper cardiac function and healthy heartbeat rhythms, and lower the risk of kidney failure.

Foods rich in Thiamine

It can be found in a variety of foods, including:
  • Whole grains: Whole wheat, oats, and brown rice are good sources of thiamine.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, sunflower seeds, and peanuts are good sources of thiamine.
  • Legumes: Beans, peas, and lentils are good sources of thiamine.
  • Pork: Pork is a good source of thiamine, particularly pork chops, pork loin, and ham.
  • Fortified foods: Some breakfast cereals, bread, and pasta are fortified with thiamine.
  • Some seafood: Salmon, tuna, and shellfish are good sources of thiamine
  • Some vegetables: Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and kale are also good sources of thiamine.
Thiamine Foods
It is important to note that thiamine can be destroyed by cooking and processing so it’s better to consume thiamine-rich foods raw, or lightly cooked.

Recommended daily intake

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin B1, or thiamine, varies depending on age, sex, and pregnancy status. The following are the RDIs for thiamine set by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States:
  • Adult men: 1.2 milligrams per day
  • Adult women: 1.1 milligrams per day
  • Pregnant women: 1.4 milligrams per day
  • Breastfeeding women: 1.5 milligrams per day
It’s important to note that these are the minimum amounts needed to prevent deficiency and that some people may need more due to certain factors such as alcohol consumption, chronic illness, or other medical conditions that could affect thiamin metabolism.

Thiamine deficiency

A low thiamine intake can lead to a number of thiamine deficiency disorders, including:
  • Beriberi: This is a serious condition that affects the nervous system, causing weakness and paralysis of the limbs.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome: This is a serious condition that affects the brain and can cause memory loss, confusion, and difficulty walking.
  • Heart problems: A deficiency of thiamine can lead to an enlarged heart, heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Nerve damage: A deficiency of thiamine can lead to damage of the nerves, causing numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and feet.
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness: A deficiency of thiamine can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, and difficulty in performing everyday activities.
Thiamine deficiency is rare in developed countries but can occur in people who have a poor diet, alcohol addiction, or certain health conditions that affect absorption. It’s important to note that certain medications and procedures can also lower thiamine levels. If you suspect you have a deficiency, you should consult with a health professional, who can diagnose the condition through a blood test and recommend the appropriate treatment, which usually includes thiamine supplements and a diet rich in thiamine-containing foods.

Thiamine excess

Consuming too much is generally considered to be safe, as the body excretes any excess through urine. High doses of thiamine are not known to cause any significant side effects, and there is no established upper limit for thiamine intake. However, in some cases, high doses of thiamine may cause some mild side effects such as:
  • Gastrointestinal distress: High doses of thiamine may cause stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people may experience allergic reactions to thiamine supplements, such as skin rash or hives.
It is also important to note that while thiamine is necessary for the body and it is not toxic, taking large doses of supplements does not necessarily equate to better health.

Fun facts

Thiamine Brewing
Here are some fun facts about thiamine:
  • Thiamine is also known as Vitamin B1 because it was the first B vitamin to be discovered.
  • Thiamine is named after the word “thiamin,” which is derived from the ancient Greek word for “sulfur.” This is because thiamine was originally thought to contain sulfur.
  • Beriberi is a word of Sinhalese origin meaning “I cannot, I cannot”, it was used to describe the debilitating symptoms caused by thiamine deficiency.
  • Thiamine is also known to be a key component in the brewing process, it helps the yeast convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • The most common cause of thiamine deficiency is alcohol abuse. Alcohol interferes with the absorption of thiamine and increases the body’s need for it, which can lead to deficiency.

Why is Thiamine important for sports performance?

Thiamine is essential for sports performance in several ways:
  • Energy production: Thiamine is essential for the conversion of glucose, a simple sugar, into energy that can be used by the body. This is particularly important for athletes, as they need a steady supply of energy to perform at their best.
  • Nervous system function: Thiamine is important for maintaining the nervous system’s health and helps ensure proper nerve conduction and communication between the brain and the rest of the body. This is important for athletes, as it allows them to react quickly and make precise movements.
  • Heart muscles function: Thiamine is important for maintaining the health of the heart and muscles. This is important for athletes, as it helps to prevent muscle weakness and fatigue, and ensures that the muscles are able to work at their best.
  • Recovery: Thiamine is important for the recovery process after intense physical activity. It helps to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation and allows the body to repair and rebuild damaged tissues.
It’s important to note that thiamine deficiency can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, and heart problems, which can negatively impact sports performance. So, it is important for athletes to have a diet that includes a variety of foods rich in thiamine.

Bottom line

In summary, Thiamine deficiency is not a common condition, but certain medications, alcohol dependency, eating disorders, and weight loss surgery can increase the risk of developing it. The symptoms of thiamine deficiency can be subtle and nonspecific, making it hard to identify and diagnose. If left untreated, deficiency can lead to more severe health problems such as nerve damage, heart conditions, and even paralysis. The best way to prevent a deficiency is to consume a variety of thiamine-rich foods or take a multivitamin. If a deficiency is diagnosed, supplementation can reverse the effects and in severe cases, high-dose supplementation is used under medical supervision.

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