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Vitamin B1 – Thiamin

Which vitamin gives you lustrous hair? Good vision, Healthy skin, helps normal functioning of the nervous system as well as the liver? Prevents birth defects in unborn babies? Well, doesn’t sound like it’s a job of one vitamin. It sure isn’t, but it’s the work of group of vitamins which fall under this mighty Vitamin B complex. Once thought to be a single vitamin, this water –soluble component is a group of eight chemically diverse vitamins that often co exists in the same foods. Together they are known as Vitamin B Complex; individually they are named as B1, B2, etc.


Let’s start our series on this multi talented vitamin by taking the first vitamin in the group. That’s vitamin B1 – Thiamin. Being water soluble, our body needs a continuous supply of the vitamin from food, as very little of it is stored in the body & depletion of the vitamin can happen in 14 days.

What does it do for your body?

  • It converts sugar, carbohydrates, proteins & starch into energy for the body’s need
  • Aids in proper functioning of the heart, nervous system as well as the muscular system
  • As it boosts the activity of the immune system, it improves the body’s ability to deal with stress
  • Proper functioning of the brain & helps cope up with depression, it also enhances learning & memory
  • Enhances blood circulation & blood formation
  • As it helps in producing hydrochloric acid, it plays an important role in digestion of food
  • It is said to be effective in treatment of arthritis as well as fertility

What happens in case of Deficiency?

The deficiency results in Beriberi which causes swelling, tingling or burning sensation in hands & feet, difficulty in breathing & uncontrolled eye movements. It can also result in a brain disorder where there is a neural damage to the central & peripheral nervous system resulting in memory loss. It heightens the chances of getting cataracts in the eyes. Thiamin deficiency can lead to congestive heart failures. It can also cause Alzheimer’s disease, extreme fatigue, irritability, constipation, edema & enlarged liver.

How do you know that you are not getting it enough?

Thiamin deficiency is rare but it’s important to understand the symptoms early on to avoid any complications. Poor memory & bad co ordination of body parts, weak & sore muscles, changes in the heart beats as well as stressful breathing, mood swings, loss appetite which results in severe weight loss, gastrointestinal disturbances, tingling sensation & numbness in hands & feet & finally nervousness are the signs to watch out for.

Where do I get it from?

Thiamin is obtained from both plant as well as animal source. Sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals, peanuts, wheat bran, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, sea-fish, liver, egg-yolk, kidney beans all contain good amounts of thiamin. Vitamin B1 can also be found in multivitamins (including children’s chewable and liquid drops) or B complex vitamins.

How to optimize its derivation from food?

Refrigerate fresh fruits & vegetables when not in use. Keep milk & grains away from strong light. Being water soluble, the vitamin is easily washed away during preparation & storage so it’s important to preserve them at room temperature in a dry place that is free of moisture.

I am sure that by reading this article, it has created an understanding in you about how essential this component is & how by incorporating certain foods in our daily diet we can avoid diseases caused by the deficiency.

About the author

Ekta Paneri-Gupta

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