IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
Alice rolled over in bed, the first sounds of morning gently moving her into consciousness. The wonderful feeling of waking from a deep, totally relaxed state was difficult to part with. Just a few more minutes of delicious dreams and then the day must be faced.
The gentle, slow movement of air flowed slowly down into her lungs. But wait! There was something in that air that made her want to focus on waking up. Something that made departing from that lovely dream state worthwhile. Something that made the transition from dreams to reality much more inviting. The enticing smell of freshly baked bread waiting to be drizzled with honey and consumed with deep enjoyment, along with a steaming hot cup of coffee, made the idea of getting up feel much more enticing.
Nothing smells quite so wonderful as freshly baked bread. There is something about bread that signifies the drawing together of human beings from the dawn of civilisation. It is the substance of community and the nourishment of our future. Unfortunately too many bad things have been done to the wonderful grains that give us nourishment from bread but that is a story for another time.
But why are we talking about bread when this is supposed to be about thiamin.
WHAT IS THIAMIN (B1)?
One of the first organic compounds to be recognised as a vitamin, thiamin is a water soluble vitamin and is normally called vitamin B1.
It is found in many foods. Kale, cauliflower, potatoes, pork, brown rice and yeast are among its richest sources. However, it is cereal grains which are the most important dietary source. Thiamine is found mostly in the germ of the grain and in the outer layer. Refined grains have considerably less naturally occurring thiamine than whole grains. 100 grams of whole wheat flour contain .55 mg of thiamine. White flour contains only .06 mg of thiamine. We can get about a third of our daily supply of thiamine in 4 thick slices of whole grain bread.
WHAT DOES THIAMIN (B1) DO FOR US?
Thiamine exists within us in several forms the most active of which is thiamine pyrophosphate.
Together with niacin (B3) , riboflavin (B2) and lipoic acid, thiamine assists a small but important number of enzymes in the production of energy from food. It is a coenzyme or partner in creating energy from sugars and in the synthesis of 3 amino acids: leucine, valine and isoleucine. Brain cells require a great deal more thiamin than any other part of the body.
Energy created from food creates reactions throughout the body and helps us maintain our health and strength.
Up to 30 milligrams of excess thiamin are stored in the skeletal muscles, heart, brain, liver and the kidneys. Thiamine is also found in it’s free form (unphosphorylated) in blood plasma, milk, cerebrospinal fluid and most fluids outside the cells (extracellular fluid). Thiamin pyrophosphate is carried by red blood cells bound to proteins mainly albumin to cells thoughout the body.
Note: Lipoic acid is a sulphur-containing fatty acid found in every cell in the body.
Note: Enzymes are proteins in the cells that make it possible for one type of molecule to be transformed into another or for several molecules to be transformed into a new type.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH THIAMIN (B1)?
When the energy created with the help of thiamin is not available then reactions do not take place and problems begin to form.
A disease called beriberi develops when we do not get enough thiamine.
Beriberi produces symptoms of severe lethargy, fatigue and complications in the cardiovascular, nervous, muscular and gastrointestinal systems. Because thiamine plays such an important role in practically every cell in the body it affects all organ systems but the most sensitive to its deficiency are the nervous system and the heart.
Beriberi may lead to Wernicke’s encephalopathy which results in weight loss, emotional disturbances, severe eye fatigue, weakness and pain in the limbs, periods of irregular heartbeat, and swelling of bodily tissues begin to develop. Eventually heart failure and death may occur if thiamine is not ingested to stop the progression of the illness. Chronic thiamine deficiency can also lead to an irreversible psychosis called Korskoff’s syndrome. This results in amnesia and the internal creation of another reality in the mind.
There are two other systems affected by thiamin deficiency. They are the muscular system and the gastrointestinal system. Beriberi has been called dry, wet or cerebral depending on which system is being referred to by a diagnostician. Dry refers to the nervous system and its affect on the muscles and eyes. Wet refers to the heart. Cerebral refers to the effects of neurone activity in the brain.
OF SPECIAL NOTE:
Thiamine in foods can be degraded in a variety of ways through substances which have been labeled anti-thiamine factors (ATF):
There are two basic anti-thiamin factors.
The first is called thiaminase which is the most destructive and works at a cellular level. This alters the structure of thiamin and makes it valueless to the body. It is ingested by eating raw or fermented fish, raw shellfish, raw ferns. Cooking inactivates thiaminase. If you are prone to eating raw and/or fermented fish do so in moderation and infrequently.
If you love fermented fish products such as those used in Thai food make sure they are cooked before consuming them to insure that thiamin will not be inactivated.
The second group of anti-thiamin factors are called thiamin antagonists. Thiamin antagonists interfere with thiamin in the digestion process.
Polyphenols such as tea, coffee, betel nuts, red cabbage, blueberries, red currants, red beets, some cereals and vegetable oils.
Flavonoids which are included in most edible fruits and vegetables and in buckwheat.
Haemin which is found in animal tissue.
Oh, Oh sounds like pretty much everything to me!
BUT WAIT! There’s help.
Vitamin C primarily, plus calcium and magnesium, tartaric acid and citric acid all work to keep thiamin bioavailable. They all help stop thiamine from being interfered with in the digestive process.
So the bottom line is that thiaminase foods need to be heated or eaten infrequently to prevent thiamin destruction and thiamin antagonists which are largely heat resistant need to be eaten with vitamin C, et. al. or eaten separately in order to avoid thiamin destruction.
That cup of coffee with your oatmeal muffin in the morning would best be accompanied by a citrus fruit or drink or drink the coffee first and follow with the muffin later.
Other reasons for not getting enough thiamin are:
1. Institutionalisation and poverty both leading to inadequate thiamin intake in the elderly. Both situations manifest poor diets.
2. Alcoholism is a major reason for inadequate intake of thiamin and is the primary cause of inadequate levels in industrialised countries.
3. Gastrointestinal diseases, HIV-AIDS, and bulimia are also instrumental in creating low levels of thiamin.
4. Sulfites used to preserve foods will attack thiamine.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH THIAMIN (B1)?
Apparently, we don’t.
There is no upper limit set for thiamine because it does not appear to create toxic effects even when tests show that when 200 mg a day are being consumed over a long period of time there is no toxicity.
The body actually stores about 20 to 30 mg of thiamin mainly in skeletal muscles, the heart, brain, liver and kidneys.
In most countries the amount set for recommended daily intake is 1.4 mg. Because it is stored, some days a person may get a lot more than this and then go for several days with not as much and it will balance out. If you are eating a healthy, balanced diet and following good food preparation rules getting sufficient thiamin will be no problem especially if you are eating whole grains, beans, lentils and other thiamine rich foods.
WHERE DO WE GET THIAMIN (B1)?
Oatmeal, flax, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole grain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges and eggs are some of the foods which provide good sources of Vitamin B1. You can get high levels of vitamin B 1 from the following sources:
The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin B1 is 1.4 mgs, however, the amount varies between the sexes. Women need about 1.2 mg per day and males about 2 mg per day. As we age we need slightly less, 1.4 mg for men and 1.1 for women.
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds, 2 slices of whole grain bread and 1 cup of cooked green peas or lentils will give you your daily recommended B1 supply.