Alternative names: Thiamine, Thiamin, Aneurin, Betaxin, Thiadoxine
Vitamin B1 is needed for release of energy from carbohydrates; aids in functioning of nervous system; helps maintain stomach acidity and normal appetite. Thiamine enhances circulation and assists in blood formation, carbohydrate metabolism, and the production of hydrochloric acid which is important for proper digestion. Thiamine also optimizes cognitive activity and brain function.
Deficiency symptoms are still seen in parts of the world where white rice makes up a major part of the daily diet. Those at greatest risk of deficiency include some young children and teenagers, stressed adults, those who exercise very heavily, alcoholics, pregnant women, those on restrictive diets and people suffering from malabsorption diseases, who are not supplemented with any B1. Marginal deficiencies, without clinical symptoms, can be common among these groups.
Elderly people are at risk of thiamin deficiency and this may lead to reduced mental functioning, depression, weakness, suppressed immunity and gastrointestinal problems. Early thiamin deficiency may be easily overlooked as the symptoms are generalized and can include fatigue, depression and stress-induced headaches.
Deficiency symptoms include:
Severe thiamin deficiency causes beriberi. Beriberi can affect the cardiovascular system (wet beriberi) and the nervous system (dry beriberi). One of the earliest signs of thiamin deficiency is reduced stamina. Depression, irritability and reduced ability to concentrate are later followed by fatigue, muscle cramps and various pains. Dry beriberi symptoms include numbness and tingling in the toes and feet, stiffness of the ankles, cramping pains in the legs, difficulty walking, and finally, paralysis of the legs with wasting of the muscles. Permanent damage to the nervous system can occur if the deficiency is not corrected in time.
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