The Crucial Role Of Thiamine

Thiamine is more widely known as vitamin B1 and is a critical micronutrient the body needs for certain metabolic functions. The vitamin aids the body in repurposing energy gathered from food to use for the brain, nerves and heart. Thiamine also allows the body to process fats, proteins, carbohydrates, sugars and starch effectively. While focusing on a balanced diet is the best way to prevent a thiamine deficiency, sometimes opting for a supplement is necessary.

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How common is the deficiency?

A recent review of studies tracking thiamine deficiency notes that B1 deficiency is more common than previously thought. Historically vitamin B1 deficiency was thought to occur in approximately 20% of the population, usually in traditionally under-developed communities, but the newer data counters this information. The rise of thiamine deficiencies is secondary to an increase in processed foods and poor diet.

1. Carrying too much weight

Obesity is a common underlying concern for a multitude of health issues. Obesity and thiamine deficiency are closely related, as obese individuals are at a higher risk of developing thiamine deficiency due to poor dietary habits and impaired absorption. Thiamine deficiency can lead to serious health consequences, including cardiovascular and neurological disorders.

2. Eating disorders

People with eating disorders are at a higher risk of developing thiamine deficiencies. Anorexia or bulimia cause an individual to severely restrict food intake or not allow food to remain in the digestive system long enough for nutrients to be fully absorbed. As a result, this population is at a heightened risk of developing many deficiencies beyond just vitamin B1. Note that not getting enough thiamine can create serious health concerns such as Wernicke’s encephalopathy.

3. Uncontrolled diabetes

Diabetes and thiamine deficiency are closely related as thiamine is an essential nutrient for glucose metabolism. Studies have shown that individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of thiamine deficiency due to increased urinary excretion of thiamine. Thiamine deficiency can worsen diabetes symptoms and increase the risk of complications such as neuropathy and cardiovascular disease.

Is a supplement a good idea?

People with healthy diets that consume whole foods typically get sufficient thiamine. Thiamine can be found in a variety of natural sources, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and some fruits and vegetables. Some of the best sources of thiamine include pork, beef, liver and yeast extract. While diet-induced thiamine deficiencies are more common in developing countries, the standard American diet of processed foods is causing low vitamin B1 levels and healthcare professionals often recommend supplementation.


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