Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is one of eight B vitamins, and – like all its relatives – is water-soluble. This means that the dangers of taking too much thiamine are reduced by the body’s ability to flush it away.
However, this also means that people need to replenish their stores of vitamin B1 daily (or at least several times during the week) to avoid thiamine deficiency.
Fortunately, vitamin B1 is found in abundance in both plants and animal products. Foods highest in this vitamin (by order of importance) include fish, pork, nuts, seeds, whole grain breads, peas, beans, kale, asparagus, and winter squash. Liver – and in fact any organ (heart, kidney, etc.) – is also high in thiamine, but doctors recommend those with potential gout or heart disease get their vitamin B1 from vegetables, fish and nuts, due to the high cholesterol levels in organ meats.
Vitamin B1 deficiencies are most likely to be found among people who regularly eat fast food, alcoholics, those with Crohn’s disease, anexoria sufferers, and those undergoing kidney dialysis.
Because vitamin B1 acts so strongly on the nervous system, people who lack enough may be very irritable, easily tired out, and moderately depressed. Abdominal complaints, another aspect of vitamin B1 deficiency, are usually due to this vitamin’s role in digesting carbohydrates.
Some serious diseases associated with thiamine deficiency include beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The latter, a two-phase disorder, is often associated with advanced alcoholism and can cause confusion, loss of coordination, loss of memory, and hallucinations. Other vitamin B1-deficiency conditions include AIDS, advanced cancer, extreme nausea during pregnancy, and abnormally high levels of thyroid hormones.
The daily recommendation for thiamine – the first of the B vitamins identified – is 1.2 milligrams (mg) for men, 1 mg for women, and about 0.6 mg for children. However, very high doses of vitamin B1 (i.e., 100 mg or more) are used to correct several unique illnesses like maple sugar urine disease.
Moreover, it is not just people who are affected. In 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that fish in the Great Lakes were dying from vitamin B1 deficiency!