Thiamine, also called vitamin B1, is a water-soluble vitamin found in virtually every cell in the body. Water-soluble vitamins are stored in the body in limited amounts. They leave the body through the urine. For this reason, it is a good idea to have them in your daily diet. Thiamine is also available as a supplement and by prescription as an injection.
Thiamine helps to process carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It is needed to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the body’s main energy-carrying molecule. Thiamin is also necessary for memory and other brain functions.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
|0-6 months||0.2 Adequate Intake (AI)||0.2 (AI)|
|7-12 months||0.3 (AI)||0.3 (AI)|
|19 and older||1.1||1.2|
|Pregnancy and Lactation||1.4||n/a|
There have been no adverse effects reported with taking too much dietary thiamine. The body excretes any excess amount that is consumed. In rare instances,
hives, itching swelling, and breathing difficulties have occurred from thiamine injections given by doctors.
Thiamine is mostly found in whole-grain and enriched grain products like bread, pasta, rice, and fortified cereals. These foods are enriched with thiamine because the vitamin is often lost during the refining process. Pork, liver, and other organ meats are naturally high in thiamine. This table lists good food sources of thiamine.
| Lentils, cooked||½ cup||0.17|
|Green peas, cooked||½ cup||0.21|
|Pork, lean||3 oz||0.81|
|Fortified breakfast cereal, wheat, puffed||1 cup||0.31|
|Wheat germ breakfast cereal, toasted, plain||1 cup||1.88|
|White bread, enriched||1 slice||0.23|
|Whole-wheat bread||1 slice||0.10|
|Egg, cooked, hard-boiled||1 large||0.03|
|Brown rice, long grain, cooked||1 cup||0.19|
|White rice, enriched, cooked||1 cup||0.26|
|White rice, unenriched, cooked||1 cup||0.04|
Thiamine deficiencies are rare in the United States because thiamine is added to refined grains. However, deficiencies do sometimes occur.
A severe thiamine deficiency can cause the disease beriberi. Beriberi can damage the heart and the nervous system.
Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include:
- Weak muscles
- Muscle ache
- Numbness and tingling in arms and legs
- Nausea and vomiting
Beriberi is still seen in people who abuse alcohol, in people whose ability to absorb thiamine is impaired, and in developing countries where foods are not fortified. Treating beriberi with vitamin B1 cures most cases, though severe deficiency can cause irreversible damage.
A deficiency of thiamine can cause Wernicke encephalopathy (WE), which affects mental status and vision. It is also more commonly seen in people who abuse alcohol. WE is treated with thiamane.
WE can develop into Korsakoff’s Syndrome. Symptoms of Korsakoff’s syndrome include memory problems, confusion, and emotional changes. Other causes may include alcoholism, and from brain damage, such as with tumors,
head injury, or
stroke. If alcoholism is the cause, avoiding alcohol is an effective treatment. Treatment with thiamine may also be used.
In people with
congestive heart failure
(CHF), the heart's ability to pump weakens, and fluid begins to accumulate in the lungs and legs. Loop diuretics are often prescribed to treat CHF. However, these drugs can deplete the body of thiamine. Since thiamine is required for normal heart function, this can cause problems. Thiamine supplements may be prescribed in these cases.
While thiamine deficiency in a healthy person is uncommon, there are conditions that can increase the need for thiamine, making a deficiency possible. If you have any of the following conditions, talk with your doctor about your thiamine needs:
- HIV infection/AIDS
- Bariatric surgery
- Prolonged diuretic use
To help increase your intake of thiamin, add some of these to your diet:
- Make a fruit salad with oranges, pineapple, orange juice, and cantelope.
- Top a spinach salad with peas, pecans, and eggs.
- Have a glass of milk with dinner.
Jordan J, Patel M, Jordan F, eds. Thiamine: Catalytic Mechanisms in Normal and Disease States. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2003.
Nutrition Fact Sheet: Thiamin (vitamin B1). Northwestern University website. Available at: . Accessed August 20, 2013.
Alternative Med Rev. 2003;8:59-62. Available at: . Accessed August 20, 2013.
Korsakoff syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated January 16, 2012. Accessed August 19, 2013.
Thiamin. Linus Pauling Institute website. Available at: . Accessed August 19, 2013.
Thiamin—B1. The World's Healthiest Foods website. Available at: . Accessed August 19, 2013.
Thiamine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed August 19, 2013.
Thiamine deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated June 28, 2010. Accessed August 19, 2013.
Wernicke encephalopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated July 13, 2013. Accessed August 21, 2013.
Last reviewed August 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.