Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

One of eight B vitamins, vitamin B1 helps your body extract energy from glucose and convert carbohydrates into fat. It was named B1 because it was the first one to be discovered.

What are its health benefits?

This vitamin – also known as thiamine – supports your nervous system too. Collectively, the B vitamins (often called the Vitamin B-Complex) are known as “anti-stress” vitamins, thanks to their ability to boost the immune system and aid the body’s ability to withstand stress.

Vitamin B1 may also be effective for the following:

  • Preventing memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease.
  • High-dose vitamin B1 supplements may protect against kidney damage in diabetics and heart failure.
  • Treating digestive disorders like diarrhoea and ulcerative colitis.
  • Correcting metabolic disorders associated with genetic diseases like Leigh’s disease.
  • Reduces the risk of developing cataracts.
  • Decreasing the risk and symptoms of the brain disorder, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), which is linked to a thiamine deficiency and is often suffered by alcoholics.

Do you have a deficiency?

The symptoms of a vitamin B1 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Mental instability or depression
  • Abdominal discomfort

You need more vitamin B1 when you’re stressed or during pregnancy. It’s also wise to boost your levels if you have a fever, diarrhoea or a surgical procedure.

People with Crohn’s disease, anorexia and undergoing kidney dialysis are the most likely to suffer from a deficiency.

Vitamin B1 injections are administered by doctors for the following conditions:

  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Coma
  • Thiamine deficiency syndromes in critically ill people
  • Wernicke’s encephalopathy syndrome

Find it in these foods

Vitamin B1 can be found in the following food sources:

  • Whole grains
  • Liver
  • Lean pork
  • Eggs
  • Wheat germ
  • Yeast
  • Legumes

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

A typical dosage is 1.2mg but some nutritionists say the optimal dose is between 8 to 10mg. Children will need less.

Before taking supplementation, discuss optimal dosages with your Clicks pharmacist or your doctor.

Know the overdose risks

Taking vitamin B1 is generally safe. However, excessive intake of it may cause the following side effects:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach upsets
  • Convulsions
  • Muscular weakness
  • An irregular heartbeat

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015