Fact Checked

What is Thiamin?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye

Thiamin is a member of the vitamin B family. It is often referred to as vitamin B1. This is likely because it was the first vitamin in this family to be identified. If it is consumed, it can be found in various parts of the body, including the brain, heart, and liver. The vitamin is essential to proper functioning of certain bodily systems.

People do not produce thiamin. Since it is essential, this means it must be derived from the foods they consume. The body does this by absorbing the vitamin through the small intestine during the digestive process.

Sunflower seeds contain thiamin.
Sunflower seeds contain thiamin.

Foods that contain the vitamin need to be eaten regularly, because the body does not store unused portions. It is believed that up to 30 milligrams may be found distributed throughout the body at one time. Regular intake is, therefore, required to prevent deficiency.

A thiamin deficiency can be fatal if it is left untreated. Symptoms of deficiency include constipation, digestive disorders, and depression. An extreme lack of the vitamin can result in a disease known as beriberi. This disease can damage both the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Pineapple is a good source of thiamin.
Pineapple is a good source of thiamin.

The nervous system is heavily reliant on a sufficient supply of thiamin. Without it, serious complications may occur. For example, the brain may not respond properly to neural signals. A healthy cardiovascular system is also dependent upon a person’s thiamin intake. An enlarged heart, for example, is one of the results of deficiency.

Lack of intake is not the only cause of deficiency. Alcohol consumption and folic acid deficiency can prevent the body from properly absorbing the vitamin. Thiamin can, however, be administered in therapeutic doses to reverse many of the symptoms that result from deficiency. It may also be used to treat conditions that have developed for other reasons. These include alcoholism, insomnia, and depression.

Therapeutic doses of thiamin might be used to treat insomnia.
Therapeutic doses of thiamin might be used to treat insomnia.

Sufficient daily doses of this vitamin can be obtained from a number of sources. Vegetarians, for example, may choose to fulfill their requirements with foods such as sunflower seeds, turnip greens, and pineapples. In addition to the fruits and vegetables that contain the vitamin, mutton, pork, and eggs are good supply sources. Yeast is one of the best sources.

Thiamin is often destroyed during the processing of foods. Two examples when this happens is when rice is polished and wheat is processed. Certain preservatives have also been noted to destroy the vitamin. As a result, it is common to find foods that have been fortified with thiamin.

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Discussion Comments


@vogueknit17- That is great advice. I went vegetarian in high school, and thankfully thiamin does have many non-meat sources. Instead I struggled with anemia, also because of other health problems. But there are still many good vegetarian and even vegan sources of thiamin, niacin, iron, and other bone-building and immunity-boosting vitamins and minerals, you just have to really do your research.


@anamur- That is such a pressuring part of high school. I am glad to be well done with that stage in my life.

If your friend really has a weight problem, or any of your friends do, they can still get fit healthily. You could all exercise together (you didn't mention if any of you were athletes already), and eat foods that are low in calories but high in nutrients. Not just fruits and vegetables, but nuts and seeds are great for nutrition as well, not just as thiamin sources but for things like Omega 3s and other fatty acids. Calcium is also a big deal, especially if you're still under 25 or 30, and your bones are still growing.


My best friend is being treated for beriberi. She said that her doctors found very little thiamin in her blood tests and now she has to take a lot of supplements to make up for it.

We are in High School and many of the girls in my class are worried about weight. Some of them are on diets and eat very little. My best friend was also on a diet for a while. She doesn't admit it but I think that's why she doesn't have enough thiamin.

I didn't know how serious thiamin deficiency was until I read about it here. I'm going to tell her to read this article and stop dieting for good.


@fify-- I hadn't heard about that but I'm glad I found out about it.

I don't have a thiamin deficiency. I eat a lot of wheat germ and I know that has a lot of thiamin. I do get thiamin fortified food for my pets though.

My veterinarian told me to do so because he said that a lot of dog and cat foods are mainly made of grain which is low in thiamin. Dogs and cats are carnivores, so in the natural environment they would be getting a lot more thiamin than they do with regular grain based pet foods. That's why I always check for thiamin when I buy pet food.


I read about a study in the newspaper yesterday. Doctors have apparently found a connection between thiamin and heart health. They noticed that about 3 out of 10 heart failure patients have thiamin definiciency. They believe that getting enough thiamin through a wholesome diet or taking thiamin supplements help protect the heart.

I have high blood pressure and do take a daily multivitamin. I checked my vitamin today and thankfully it does have thiamin in it. I think many cereals are also fortified with thiamin and I'm going to prefer those over others from now on. I do eat healthy, but since thiamin intake is necessary every day, there is no harm in taking some supplements too.

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    • Sunflower seeds contain thiamin.
      By: eyewave
      Sunflower seeds contain thiamin.
    • Pineapple is a good source of thiamin.
      By: Malyshchyts Viktar
      Pineapple is a good source of thiamin.
    • Therapeutic doses of thiamin might be used to treat insomnia.
      By: bramgino
      Therapeutic doses of thiamin might be used to treat insomnia.