Poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle are some of the major reasons behind thiamine deficiency. Thiamine or vitamin B1 is a vitamin that belongs to the B complex group of vitamins. Read on to know the functions of thiamine and what causes vitamin b1 deficiency.
Vitamins and minerals are the essential nutrients which help strengthen our immune system and promote proper functioning of all body systems. Vitamin B is a complex vitamin which is further subdivided into vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folic acid), and vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin).
What Causes Thiamine Deficiency
Examples of thiamine rich foods are fortified breads, cereals, pasta, whole grains (especially wheat germ), lean meats (especially pork), poultry, egg yolk, liver, fish, dried beans, peas, brown rice, nuts, sunflower seeds, oatmeal and soybean. If your diet does not contain foods that are recognized as good thiamine sources, then you are likely to suffer from thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is a water soluble vitamin and is flushed off regularly with excess water and waste products. Therefore, you need to incorporate thiamine sources in your everyday diet. Dairy products, fruits, and vegetables are not considered as good thiamine sources. These foods when consumed in very large quantity, can supply sufficient thiamine. Therefore, those who strictly follow a vegetarian diet may suffer from vitamin b1 deficiency. Sometimes, thiamine gets destroyed during cooking and boiling. This deficiency is common in those who usually consume highly refined carbohydrates like polished rice, white flour, and white sugar. Inadequate intake of other nutrients, for example, other vitamin B deficiencies, can cause can also lead to this deficiency.
Due to certain health conditions, digestive system, especially the intestines become weak. In such cases, despite thiamine rich food in diet, you may experience vitamin deficiency as intestines won’t be able to absorb the vitamin properly. Impaired metabolism, for example, as observed in case of hepatic insufficiency, is one of the major vitamin b1 deficiency causes.
Those who consume excess alcohol lose the capacity to absorb the nutrients from the diet. Alcoholism leads to decreased intake of food, impaired absorption and use of nutrients. It increases the demand of nutrients and is a cause of an apoenzyme defect. All these factors result in thiamine deficiency.
Pregnant and lactating women need to consume more thiamine. If they don’t do so, they suffer from vitamin deficiency. Hyperthyroidism, strenuous exercise or fever also increase the demand for thiamine and if the person fails to meet this demand through diet then he/she may have to face serious consequences.
Functions of Thiamine
Let us first take a look at thiamine functions, as this will help know the effects of vitamin b1 deficiency on the body.
- Thiamine converts carbohydrates into energy.
- It plays an important role in carbohydrate, fat, amino acid, glucose, and alcohol metabolism.
- It promotes proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system.
- It improves appetite.
- It is used to treat ulcerative colitis, diarrhea and AIDS, as it boosts the immune system.
- It helps prevent eye problems like cataract and glaucoma.
- It works as a good pain reliever for diabetics.
- It helps control the progression of kidney diseases in people with type 2 diabetes.
- It helps maintain memory during old age.
- As it promotes functioning of the nervous system, it enhances learning abilities.
- It works great for depression.
- It is used to treat Wernicke’s encephalopathy syndrome and coma of unknown origin.
- Along with other vitamins, it helps prevent cervical cancer.
- Doctors prescribe thiamine for motion sickness, cerebellar syndrome, canker sores.
- Thiamine supplements help improve athletic performance as it is involved with the formation of energy.
- It helps fight stress and maintain mental balance.
- Thiamine helps build alcohol-damaged nerve tissues.
- It stimulates the process of blood formation and improves blood circulation.
- For proper growth of children, thiamine is essential.
Effects of Thiamine Deficiency
Vitamin b1 deficiency can result in
- Beriberi, a serious medical condition.
- Degeneration of peripheral nerves
- Degeneration of thalamus, mammillary bodies and cerebellum
- Reduced cerebral blood flow
- Increased vascular resistance
- Peripheral neuritis (inflammation of a nerve leading to pain and sometimes loss of function) associated with pellagra
- Neuritis during pregnancy
- Dilation of heart
- Swollen muscle fibers
- Fragmented and vacuolized muscle fibers (interstitial spaces are filled with fluid and dilated)
- Edema in feet and legs
- Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis, which if left untreated can lead to coma and death.
- Increased arteriovenous shunting of blood can result in heart failure.
Fatigue, increased irritability, poor memory, difficulty sleeping, chest pain, anorexia, and abdominal discomfort are some of the major symptoms of this condition.
Incorporation of thiamine rich foods in diet can help prevent life-threatening situations. A chronic deficiency of vitamin B1 can lead to poor functioning of the heart and the nervous system. Severe deficiency can result in impaired function of the brain. If you know the exact cause of thiamine deficiency, then with proper treatment, you can improve thiamine levels fast.