The extensive B vitamin complex includes vitamin B1, which is also known as thiamine and aneurine. It is characterized by a weak, albeit characteristic, odor and is extremely important for the proper functioning of your nervous system. It is popularly known as a humorous vitamin or a nervous vitamin.
Additionally, vitamin B1 is significantly involved in carbohydrate metabolism, which should motivate you to avoid a thiamine deficiency. It is an essential vitamin, which means that your body cannot synthesize it on its own, so you must eat it regularly.
What vitamin B1 does in your body
In its chemical structure, vitamin B1 consists of two ring systems connected by a methylene bridge. It is a pyrimidine and a thiazole ring.
There is an active protein-based thiamine transport mechanism in the intestine that significantly supports vitamin absorption. Hereditary deficiency of these transfer proteins can occur, although rarely.
As a result, MAST (megaloblastic anemia sensitive thiamine) is developed with the characteristic clinical picture, for example:
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus.
- Megaloblastic anemia of all cell lines.
- Serious disorders of cardiac function.
If MAST is not treated properly, the patient dies. If, on the other hand, vitamin B1 is present in high concentrations, its absorption through the intestine works correctly, which means that all the serious diseases mentioned can be treated by administering high doses of thiamine .
The history of vitamin B1
The Japanese Kanehiro Takaki recognized in 1882 that Beriberi’s disease, which had already spread to China in 2600 BC, was known to be cured by a diet rich in B vitamins.
Christiaan Eijkman, who received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1929, demonstrated in 1897 that a rice-based diet can cause vitamin B1 deficiency.
If you change the food to bran, which consists of the natural silvery skin of rice grains, vitamin deficiency is quickly remedied. Umetaro Suzuki discovered thiamine in 1910 when he investigated why rice bran could cure Beriberi disease.
In 1912, Casimir Funk isolated thiamine from rice bran, so he also discovered the amino group contained in it and was, therefore, able to assign it to vitamins. Willem F. Donath and Barend CP Jansen first isolated the vitamin in its crystalline form in 1926 and called it “aneurin,” a shortened form of “antineuritic vitamin.“
The term “thiamine” was not coined by the Nobel Prize in Chemistry Adolf Otto Reinhold Windaus until 1932 due to its sulfur content.
In 1936 Rudolf Grewe and Robert R. Williams were able to determine the vitamin’s structure almost simultaneously. The latter also achieved material synthesis together with Kurt Westphal and Hans Andersag a year later.
In order to regulate a high level of thiamine in certain organs, the fat-soluble “thiamine benfothiamine prodrug” (a precursor of the vitamin), which was discovered in 1952 by a Japanese research group led by Fujiwara, is required.
Properties, tasks, and effects
Vitamin B1 is instrumental in the conversion of carbohydrates (sugars), fat, and alcohol. It also breaks down certain amino acids in a regulatory manner. Therefore, it is a very important control instrument in the energy balance of your body.
As a so-called coenzyme , it is also an indispensable component of many vital enzymes.
The heart and brain in particular are characterized by a huge turnover in bioenergy and are therefore the first to be affected by a thiamine deficiency.
This also includes the motor driving system, such as the sense of smell, touch, and sight. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, acetylcholine, or GABA are messenger substances that transmit signals to synapses in brain cells.
They also need vitamin B1 to function properly. The same applies to the transfer of states of excitement between nerves and muscles.
Therefore, vitamins B1 and B6 are mainly used in combination to treat nervous diseases. It is interesting in this context that the active ingredients work more in combination than in the same individual doses.
This applies to vitamins or medications, as well as toxins or pollutants in our environment. In this context, drug intolerance is plausible if a patient must take several different active substances at the same time.
The B vitamins combined support the body’s own repair measures, in particular by promoting the growth of nerve fibers.
The daily requirement of an adult
An adult can take 9 to 16 milligrams of vitamin B1 every day. Most of it enters the liver, which is converted to TDP (thiamine diphosphate).
Humans can only store 25 to 30 milligrams of this vitamin in the body for up to 40 days. The excess of thiamine is expelled from the body.
After two weeks of vitamin B1 withdrawal, half of the physical reserves are depleted. This requires a sufficient replacement of vitamin B1 to prevent the development of deficiency symptoms.
By the way, vitamin C is a good ally of vitamin B1 because it slows down its decomposition significantly.
When eating, there is a general rule, you should take at least half a milligram of vitamin B1 for every 1,000 calories.
This leads to the understanding that the more energy used, the more thiamine your body needs, which means that a competitive athlete should be one of the main thiamine consumers.
The same applies to diabetics because vitamin B1 assumes a protective function against the degeneration of peripheral nerves, which is known as neuropathy.
Good sources of vitamin B1
Thiamine is a component of plant and animal foods. Your body can use the vitamin directly from plants; if it comes from animal products, it must first be broken down by enzymes. Particularly good providers of thiamine include:
- Duck meat.
- Fish (especially eel, plaice, and tuna).
- Cereals and cereal-based products.
- Legumes (peas, white beans).
- Brazil nuts.
- (Lean) pig.
- Sunflower seeds.
- Wheat germ.
- Sweet corn.
Of course, you can complete your daily needs from a delicious combination of different foods. Therefore, you can achieve the necessary amount of vitamins, for example, with 100 grams of oats and 100 grams of lean pork, or even 50 grams of sunflower seeds.
A brief digression on nutrition
As a consequence of millions of years of evolution, humans can satisfy their daily vitamin requirements with a healthy and balanced diet. Most of the time you will find interesting information on the Internet about what is meant today by a balanced diet.
We would like to do it completely differently here and show what really makes you sick in the long run. If you recognize yourself at one time or another, you know where you should best change your habits.
Particularly unhealthy consumer goods in our modern, industrial diet include:
- Coca Cola and other sweet lemonades.
- High alcoholic beverages.
- All kinds of tobacco products.
- Fried snacks like curry sausage, Thuringian sausage, etc.
- Sweets, cakes.
- Drugs of any kind.
The random order chosen here has nothing to do with a priority ranking.
What the mentioned components have in common is their more or less pronounced ability to destroy vitamins and vital substances that have been taken elsewhere and to release aggressive free radicals in the body.
In addition to regular and extensive consumption of the aforementioned consumer goods, anyone characterized by a pronounced lack of exercise should await the development of life-threatening diseases of civilization such as fatty liver, diabetes, high blood pressure, arterial and cardiac obesity, or stroke.
Thiamine is a complex and highly sensitive molecule that is rapidly destroyed by exposure to heat, ultraviolet light, and exposure to oxygen. Therefore, it is necessary to store food or food supplements in a cool, dark place.
Cooking it alone means that more than 30 percent of thiamine is lost in food. However, part of it remains in the cooking water due to the water solubility of the vitamin.
Therefore, it is not sensible to simply pour this (valuable) water into the sink. In many cases you can make a soup or sauce.
Consequences of vitamin B1 deficiency
The research on the vitamin was sparked by the wrong decision of food manufacturers to peel or polish rice.
In those countries where people mainly eat rice, deficiency diseases arose due to the removal of rice husks, which were rich in vitamins.
The most famous of these is Beriberi disease, which is characterized by disorders of nerve functions and resulting muscle loss. This disease has not yet been eradicated, it is always present in many third world countries.
Incidentally, when finely ground white flour hit the market in Central Europe, from which important vitamins are also removed, there were also many cases of beriberi.
The milder forms of vitamin B1 deficiency are manifested by symptoms such as poor appetite, indigestion, or nervous disorders, such as poor memory and concentration, tiredness, or depressive states.
The severe form of vitamin deficiency manifests itself in severe central nervous disorders, such as:
- Disorders of carbohydrate metabolism (diabetes).
- Sensitivity disorders (things get out of control when you access them).
- Cerebral dysfunction.
- Metabolic acidosis from blood acidity.
- Cardiovascular failure.
Symptoms of a vitamin B1 deficiency
- Difficulty breathing.
- Reduced physical performance.
- Low blood pH.
- Gastrointestinal disorders.
- Heart failure.
- High irritability
- Cramps and paralysis.
- Lack of concentration.
- Muscle pain, muscle weakness, muscle wasting.
- Neuropathy (nerve pain, nerve inflammation).
- Constant pronounced fatigue.
- Rapid (running) pulse.
A long-lasting vitamin B1 deficiency is required to develop Beriberi disease.
The Dutch doctor Jacob de Bondt had already observed and described this disease in Java in 1630. Nicolaes Tulp, who, as a Dutch anatomist and surgeon, was one of the best-known doctors of the 17th century and also the mayor of Amsterdam, also reported on this disease.
The so-called “dry beriberi” is essentially a disease of the nervous system.
Typical symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Threw up.
- Muscle weakness and muscle breakdown.
- Lack of concentration.
- General pain.
- Speech disorders
Beriberi’s “wet” version mainly affects the circulatory system and the heart. Current heart failure leads to acceleration of the pulse, retention of water in the tissue (edema), and shortness of breath.
The so-called “Shoshin-Beriberi” is a particularly heavy form of the wet Beriberi. It is also known as “acute cardiovascular beriberi”. If left untreated, this disease quickly leads to acute heart failure.
Another form of beriberi is “Wernicke’s encephalopathy,” which affects the brain. Punctate growths and bleeding from vascular wall cells that are not accompanied by inflammatory infiltrations are characteristic.
In the acute phase, there is often a “Korsakoff psychosis” in which the patient suffers from anterograde and retrograde amnesia, which means that patients do not form new memory contents and cannot recover the contents that have already been saved.
If a breastfeeding mother suffers from thiamine deficiency, infant beriberi may occur. The baby suffers from the following symptoms: restlessness or apathy, vomiting, and, in severe cases, also life-threatening heart failure.
Common causes of vitamin B1 deficiency
- Chronic alcohol consumption.
- Tannic acid (for example, contained in coffee or black tea).
- Preservatives (mainly sulfur).
- Strict diets.
- High nicotine consumption by heavy smokers.
- A lot of stress.
- Competitive sports.
- Long-term use of birth control pills.
In addition to a balanced and healthy diet, which generally does not cause a thiamine deficiency in the first place, you should also consider the following points:
Frequent consumption of refined sugar increases the need for vitamin B1. This should especially be verified when raising children. Alcohol, acid-binding drugs, black tea, and sulfur as a preservative reduce your absorption capacity of vitamin B1.
Vitamin overdose (hypervitaminosis)
Since your body can only store thiamine to a very limited degree, overdosing is almost impossible.
Animal experiments on rats have confirmed this with the fact that thiamine has been tolerated with virtually no side effects for three generations, despite the animals being fed 100 times more than the daily requirement.
The direct form of administration to the muscle or vein alone led to severe hypersensitivity reactions in individual cases, i.e. shortness of breath or anaphylactic shock.