Nutrient in the Spotlight: Thiamin

Did you know that there’s not just one but several B vitamins? B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12.

Each B vitamin goes by another name as well, which might make them easier to remember. Vitamin B1, also known as thiamin, will be the focus of this post.

Why do you need thiamin?

Thiamin is primarily used in the energy metabolism of cells throughout the body but is also especially important in nerve cells and their function.

How much do you need?

Needs for the average person range from 1.0-1.2 milligrams per day. Most people who are adequately nourished are not at risk for a thiamin deficiency, but there are exceptions (see below).

Which foods contain thiamin?

Thiamin is found in varying amounts in many foods, but these are the best sources:

  • Pork

  • Fortified grains such as cereal, bread, and tortillas

  • Soy milk

  • Squash

  • Watermelon

  • Beans

  • Potatoes

When could thiamin deficiency occur?

Alcohol impairs thiamin absorption as well as increasing thiamin loss through urine. As a result, alcohol abuse may lead to thiamin deficiency. The ultimate consequence of chronic, severe thiamin deficiency due to alcohol use is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a disorder that resembles dementia and also affects coordination. This syndrome can be fatal. Thiamin deficiencies can also occur in other instances of malnutrition such as anorexia, but alcohol abuse is the most common cause.

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