Vitamin B1, also called thiamine, is a family member of the B vitamin group and is best known for its role in preventing the beriberi disease, characterized by deficiency of nutrients. Beriberi literally means "weakness" and was common (especially in parts of Asia) in the late 19th and early 20th century. In its most common form of the disease is characterized by muscle weakness, lack of energy and inactivity.
Functions of Vitamin B1
- Production of energy. Cells in the body depend on sugar as an energy source. When oxygen is used to convert sugar into usable energy, the process of energy generation is called aerobic energy production. This process can not take place without adequate supplies of vitamin B1, since B1 is part of the enzyme system, called pyruvic dehydrogenase system, which allows oxygen to process sugar.
When vitamin B1 functions in its energy production capacity, it usually occurs in the form of thiamine diphosphate, or TDP. Other forms of vitamin B1 are TPP (thiamine pyrophosphate) and TMP (thiamine monophosphate), which also play an important role in energy production.
- Supports the nervous system. Vitamin B1 also plays a key role in supporting the nervous system where it allows the development of healthy fat- like coverings which surround most nerves (called myelin sheaths). In the absence of vitamin B1, these coverings can degenerate or get damaged. Pain, prickly sensations, and lack of feeling in the nerves are associated with symptoms that can result from a deficiency of vitamin B1.
Another type of link between vitamin B1 and the nervous system include its role in the production of acetylcholine molecules. This molecule, called a neurotransmitter, is used by the nervous system to carry messages between nerves and muscles.
Deficiency of vitamin B1
One of the first symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency is loss of appetite (anorexia), which reflects the indifference and malaise of the body.
The inability of the nervous system to ensure proper muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract, can cause stomach upset or constipation, and muscle tenderness.
Other symptoms related to nerve dysfunction is also associated with thiamine deficiency as the myelin sheath around the nerves can not be formed properly without adequate amounts of thiamine. These symptoms include prickly sensations or numbness, especially in the legs.
Vitamin B1 is highly unstable and is destroyed easily by heat, acidity (pH levels), and other chemicals. Sulfur compounds and nitrite can inactivate vitamin B1. Long-term freezing of foods containing thiamine, can also lead to significant losses of this vitamin.
The leading risk factor for vitamin B1 deficiency is alcoholism. In fact, the relationship between alcohol and heart disease, and vitamin B1 deficiency is extremely narrow. Chronic alcoholics have to take thiamine doses 10 to 100 times higher than normally required.
Largest consumers of coffee and tea may also be at increased risk of vitamin B1 deficiency, since these beverages act as diuretics and displayed as water and water-soluble vitamins (such as B1) from the body. The need for vitamin B1 is increased in the presence of chronic stress, chronic diarrhea , chronic fever and smoking. People with these health problems may need their dose of thiamine to be 5 to 10 times the normal size.
Continuous diuretic drug furosemide including Lasix, birth control pills (oral contraceptives), sulfonamide antibiotics and reduce the presence of vitamin B1 in the body.
Benefits of Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1 may play an important role in the prevention and / or treatment of the following diseases : alcoholism , Alzheimer's disease, Crohn's disease , heart disease , depression, epilepsy , AIDS , multiple sclerosis and others.
Most supplements contain vitamin B1 in non-biologically active form, called thiamine hydrochloride. When B1 is active in the metabolic pathways of the body, it is usually in the form thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), thiamine monophosphate (TMP) and thiamine diphosphate (TDP).