Vitamin B1, better known as thiamin, is the vitamin of the month for March!
Like Vitamin C, thiamin is also a water-soluble vitamin. Thiamin is one of several B vitamins (8 to be exact) that make up the B-complex. Thiamin plays an important role in making energy for the cells in your body and is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol, which are important building blocks for your body’s function. Thiamin is also involved in nerve conduction to help transmit messages from your brain to muscles and organs throughout your body.
The recommended amount of thiamin is 1.2 mg/day for men and 1.1 mg/day for women. Men need more thiamin than women because they typically have a larger body size and thus higher energy needs. Key food sources of thiamin include meat, whole grains, fortified grains/cereals, and legumes. Many breads and breakfast cereals in the US are often fortified with thiamin to ensure that the general public does not suffer deficiencies.
A deficiency in thiamin is rare in the US, but results in a disease called beriberi. Symptoms of beriberi include loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, cardiovascular problems, confusion, and memory loss. More commonly seen is the deficiency disease called Wernicke’s encephalopathy which can occur in alcoholics and AIDS patients. The disease is characterized by a paralysis of the eye muscles and impaired overall muscle coordination. People who may be at risk for a thiamin deficiency include the elderly, alcoholics, AIDS patients, gastrointestinal cancer patients, and people with malabsorptive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease; it is important to consult your medical care provider if you think you may be at risk.
Be sure to get your daily dose of thiamin by starting your day off with a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal or adding legumes like lima beans and peas to your lunch and dinner meals!