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The human body is a complex machine that requires a lot of internal and external upkeep to run at its most optimal level. Vitamins, minerals, nutrients and physical activity are all key factors in the ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ sentiment, and all are required to ward off disease, chronic pain and other ailments humans suffer from on a regular basis. Things such as poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies can all lead the body down a tough path in terms of overall health.
One of these vitamins that the body needs to function is B1, otherwise known as thiamine.
What is Thiamine?
Thiamine is an essential, water-soluble vitamin needed to regulate carbohydrate metabolism throughout the body. The body needs carbohydrates as source of energy to function. They are used as the main energy source for the cells and to help keep depletion of protein down for optimal muscle mass. To help the body’s functionality run smoothly in terms of carbohydrate processing, a certain level of thiamine is needed.
Thiamine also aids in the proper function of the metabolism, nerves and heart. Here it functions as a phosphate donor for optimal stimuli transfer along the nerves. It is carried through the bloodstream to get all the cells what they need to keep the body at its best. Each person needs a certain daily amount of thiamine, which depends on a few different factors. Due to its close association with energy metabolism, our daily intake needs fluctuate depending on our energy intake in kilocalories. Average recommendations for males over the age of 18 are 1.2 mg per day, while adult females require 1.1 mg. During pregnancy, the requirements increase.
What is Vitamin B1 good for?
Aside from processing carbohydrates, Vitamin B1 is an important factor in the overall function of health and in the avoidance of certain chronic ailments. It is also a known key factor in the prevention of diseases such as beriberi (a rare heart and circulatory system condition, mainly occurring in developing countries) and peripheral neuritis (brain nerve inflammation).
Those who are deficient in thiamine may experience problems such as declined cognitive function, unintended weight loss, an enlarged heart and weak muscles. Treatment using thiamine can also be beneficial for people with a wide variety of ailments. Those who suffer from ulcerative colitis or digestive issues (such as chronic diarrhoea) can benefit from taking a daily dose of the vitamin.
Other conditions thiamine has been said to help with include cataracts and other vision problems, diabetic pain, heart disease, motion or morning sickness in women who are expecting, and a less-than-adequate immune system. A possibly fatal illness called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can also develop in alcoholics because drinking too much can lead to a severe B1 deficiency. This disease is neurological in nature and affects cognitive function and mental health.
Foods Rich in Thiamine
In general, your natural supply of thiamine should satisfy the body's requirements, as it is contained in numerous animal- and plant-based foods. Reasons for a deficiency may be a poor diet, pre-existing health conditions or alcohol abuse. The best way to ensure the body is getting the proper amount of Vitamin B1 is to eat foods rich in thiamine, including sunflower seeds, pork, whole grains and fish.
Other foods rich in thiamine include eggs, potatoes, cauliflower, orange, asparagus, kale and liver. The level of the vitamin varies from food to food, with the highest amount being found in pork products such as pork chops, tenderloin or cured ham. Other foods that contain high levels of B1 include beans, seeds and nuts, and green peas.
Where to Find Vitamin B1
Our bodies can produce minor amounts of thiamine in the intestine. This, unfortunately, is usually irrelevant and does not help us to meet our daily requirements. Hence, a daily dietary intake is important.
The problem with getting Vitamin B1 into the system through diet comes when cooking the food. Because the vitamin is water-soluble, when certain foods are boiled or heated, the vitamin dissolves into the water used to cook it. This depletes the food of its thiamine stores, thus making it that much harder to get the daily recommended dose. Eating fortified cereals could help, as there is over 100% of the daily intake needed in many types.
Supplements are a good option for people looking to increase their thiamine intake; generally, if taken with a balanced diet, the required amount of the vitamin is reached through both supplements and foods. In people who suffer from severe thiamine deficiency, high-dose supplements or even injections at the doctor’s office may be introduced. As many B vitamins are cross-linked through metabolic pathways, for general patients without a diagnosed, specific deficiency of B1, a complex of B vitamins is recommended.
Thiamine and Chronic Disease
Like with other B vitamins, marginal or subclinical deficiencies can occur due to food processing or an imbalanced intake.
An optimal level of thiamine in the body can increase our ability to fight chronic disease and to function at our best.