Smorgasbord Health Column – Just Food for Health – Nutrients we need – Vitamin B1- Thiamin

health column final

Before I look at Vitamin B1- thiamin, a reminder of the difference in vitamins that identifies if they need to be consumed daily or are stored by the body for future use.


These include all the B vitamins, vitamin C as well as Folic Acid. They are not easily stored in the body and are often lost in cooking or by being eliminated from the body. This means that they must be consumed in constant daily amounts to prevent deficiencies. In the case of Vitamin C this could lead to poor immune system function and if you are deficient in the B vitamins you will not be able to metabolise the fat, protein and carbohydrates that you eat.


These vitamins include A, D, E and K. Because they are soluble in fat they tend to be stored in the body’s fat tissues, fat cells and liver. This means that they should be supplemented with care if you are already taking in plenty on a daily basis in your diet. In excess even supposedly beneficial nutrients can be toxic and this is why you always should adjust your diet first before taking in additional supplements.

Vitamin B1- Thiamin

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that along with the other B vitamins and Vitamin C it travels through the blood stream and any excess is eliminated in our urine. The body cannot store thiamin but it is found in tissues within the body such as in the liver, heart, kidneys and the nervous system where it binds to enzymes. This does mean that these types of vitamins need to be replaced from our food continuously.

Thiamin helps fuel our bodies by converting blood sugar into energy. Every cell in the body requires it to form the fuel we run on called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It also keeps our mucus membranes healthy and with other B vitamins is essential for a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system as well as muscular function. It is also important for healthy skin, hair and our eyes.

Deficiency of B1

It is very rare in this day and age in the western world to find a person who is deficient in Thiamin. A lack of it can cause a disease called beriberi with symptoms of rapid heartbeat, muscle wasting, nerve problems and confusion. The body is unable to efficiently digest carbohydrates which results in a build-up of pyruvic acid in the bloodstream leading to the symptoms.

There have been babies who have suffered from this due to a lack of the vitamin in their formula and people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol can also develop beriberi.

Most commonly it is found in elderly people who have general malabsorption problems or a restricted diet. Some children with congenital heart disease may suffer a deficiency, as can patients undergoing kidney dialysis who should be prescribed B1 by their doctor. A deficiency is also likely in someone who has an eating disorder, particularly anorexia or who suffers from Crohn’s disease where there is a general malabsorption of nutrients as a whole.

There is a trend at the moment to remove all grain related carbohydrates from our diets. For some of us grains can cause a problem but it is important to remember that our bodies evolved eating wild grains as part of our normal diet.  The definite carbohydrates to avoid are the white, refined products that are so overly processed there is little nutritional value and usually a great many additives including sugar. So white packaged bread, most breakfast cereals, white rice and biscuits and cakes etc.

Whole grains contain the B vitamins and as such I included daily in the form of brown rice and some wholegrain crackers. I don’t eat much bread but if I do it is home backed with wholewheat flour or bought from the store’s in house bakery where they make a delicious multigrain additive free loaf.

If you do not eat much meat and avoid even wholegrains you are cutting out a very substantial amount of foods that supply these essential vitamins. To then take a supplement to make up this shortfall does seem a little counter intuitive!

Some of the symptoms that might indicate that you are becoming deficient in B1.

If you regularly experience headaches, fatigue, nausea, irritability and mild depression it would be a good idea to review your intake of B vitamins in general. If the symptoms are more severe they will include confusion, swelling, burning sensation or tingling in the hands and feet, trouble breathing and as Beriberi progresses uncontrolled eye movements.

As a supplement it is usually taken as part of a B-complex formulation and does work better with vitamin B2 and B3. As with all supplements that could have an effect on your health, you should first look at your diet and make changes to ensure that you are getting the nutrient from sources your body recognises. Food is always the best source, but if you are in one of the risk groups then do consult a doctor about your need for supplementation.

wholegrainsThe best food sources are all whole grains such as brown rice, oats and whole wheat cereals and bread, beans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, pineapple, watermelon, asparagus, spinach, squash, lentils, beans, peanuts as well as oily fish, eggs, lean ham and pork.


You can insure that you are getting sufficient vitamin B1 in your diet by including one of the above foods at each of your main meals and as snacks.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Breakfast – Bowl of porridge with sunflower seeds or a poached egg on whole grain toast.

Snack – handful of nuts.

Lunch – Salmon with a spinach and asparagus salad with brown rice.

Snack – slices of watermelon or homemade watermelon iced lollies.

Supper – Homemade butternut squash and lentil soup with a slice of wholegrain toast.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1999 – 2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from

And Amazon UK:

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4:

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally