Vitamin B Facts: Everything You Need to Know

May 7th 2016

When it comes to vitamins, most of us are familiar with names like vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin C. However, when it comes to vitamin B, there's really no such recognition. That's because the "B vitamins" are actually a group of eight different vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, etc. Though this group of vitamins shares some common characteristics, they are overall distinct from one another in their functions, effects and recommended dosages. In this article, you'll find out everything you need to know about vitamin B1, which is more commonly referred to as thiamine.

What Does Vitamin B1 Do?

Thiamine (vitamin B1) plays a role in some of the most important chemical reactions that occur in the body. Thiamine is utilized by your body's cells to convert carbohydrates into usable energy. Just as much as people need carbohydrates to provide them with the energy they need to get through the day, they also need sufficient amounts of vitamin B1 to properly break down those carbohydrates.

There are other uses for thiamine beyond processing carbohydrates. Thiamine is also used to help treat certain genetic diseases. For example, thiamine can ease some of the symptoms of Leigh's disease, a neurometabolic disorder affecting the nervous system.

Another area where thiamine appears to be effective is in the prevention of kidney disease. For people with type 2 diabetes, kidney disease may be a real threat. However, research suggests that when people with type 2 diabetes take higher doses of thiamine, it counteracts potential kidney damage. Similarly, some studies have connected taking thiamine to the prevention of cataracts.

Food Sources of Vitamin B1

Most people get adequate amounts of thiamine simply from eating a healthy, balanced diet. That's because so many of the basic foods in our diet contain considerable amounts of vitamin B1. Some of the foods which contain thiamine include fortified breads, cereals and pastas, especially those which have whole grains. Fish, lean meats, peas, soybeans and dried beans are also good ways to get thiamine in your diet. Wheat germ and lean pork are particularly excellent sources of thiamine.

There are several foods which have smaller amounts of thiamine, like dairy products, fruits and vegetables. Though these are not major sources of thiamine, they can become significant when they are consumed in high amounts. For example, vegetarians who eat more fruits and vegetables each day could compensate for not getting thiamine from meat sources.

Side Effects

For the most part, people do not experience any negative side effects related to the consumption of regular amounts of thiamine. In certain rare cases, some people have developed skin irritations and other mild allergic reactions.

People who don't get enough thiamine in their diets may experience weakness and fatigue. In severe cases, a thiamine deficiency may even cause psychosis or nerve damage. Over the long run, a person with a thiamine deficiency is at risk for some serious health issues. For example, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is a brain disorder that develops from an ongoing thiamine deficiency. People with WKS often receive thiamine shots to help counteract the symptoms of this disorder, which can include memory loss, double vision and loss of muscle coordination.

Because of alcohol's effects on the body, thiamine typically doesn't enter the body of an alcoholic correctly. This makes alcoholics especially prone to developing WKS. For that reason, many alcoholics are prescribed high dosages of thiamine to prevent the onset of WKS as they go through withdrawal.

Daily Dosage Recommendations

The recommended dosage of vitamin B1 depends on several varying factors, including age and sex. Beginning at birth, infants should consume about 0.2 milligrams (mg) each day until they are 6 months old. From the age of 7 to 12 months, babies should have about 0.3 mg of thiamine per day.

Daily dosage recommendations continue to increase with age throughout childhood. For ages 1 to 3, children should have 0.5 mg per day. From ages 4 to 8, the daily dosage is increased to 0.6 mg per day. For ages 9 through 13, the recommendation is 0.9 milligrams of thiamine per day.

For men ages 14 and older, the recommended daily dose stays at 1.2 mg of vitamin B1 per day. For women, however, the recommendations are slightly different. For females ages 14 to 18, the recommendation is for 1 mg of thiamine per day. From the age of 19 and on, that recommendation increases to about 1.1 mg each day.

In addition to these recommended daily dosages, there are certain situations in which an individual might consume more or less than the recommended dose. For example, pregnant and lactating women are often advised to take a higher daily dosage of thiamine than other adult females. The best way to determine the right recommended dosage for you is to speak with a physician who knows your medical history and can assess any health risks.

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