Vitamin B1 is found in most foods, though mostly in small amounts. The best source of thiamin is dried brewer’s yeast but other good sources include meat (especially pork and ham products), some species of fish (eel, tuna), whole grain cereals and bread, nuts, pulses, dried legumes and potatoes.
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
The main functions of vitamin B1 are connected to its role as a helper molecule – and so-called ‘coenzyme’ – which activates enzymes, the proteins that control the biochemical processes occurring in the body. A sufficient intake of vitamin B1 is vital, as it plays an essential role in
- The production of energy from food
- The synthesis of nucleic acids
- The conduction of nerve impulses.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which provides scientific advice to policy makers, has confirmed that clear health benefits have been established for the dietary intake of vitamin B1 in contributing to:
- The normal function of the heart
- Normal carbohydrate and energy-yielding metabolism
- The normal function of the nervous system
- Normal neurological development and function
- Normal psychological functions.
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency is rare, but can occur in people who get most of their calorifies from sugar or alcohol. People with thiamin deficiency have difficulty digesting carbohydrates, causing a loss of mental alertness, difficulty in breathing and heart damage.
Supplements and food fortification
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is mostly formulated in combination with other B-vitamins (B-complex) or included in multi-vitamin supplements.
Fortification of white flour, cereals, pasta, beverages and rice began in the United States during the Second World War, with other countries quickly following suit. Fortification of staple foods has virtually eradicated the B-vitamin deficiency diseases in developed nations.