The Health Benefits of Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

The Health Benefits of Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Introduction & Biological Role

Let’s take a few minutes to review the benefits of Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1. Thiamine is a water soluble vitamin and is involved in many essential bodily functions. This includes nervous system and muscle function, the flow of electrolytes in and out of nerve and muscle cells, digestion, and carbohydrate metabolism.


Absorbed in the small intestine and transported to liver. Highest concentrations found in skeletal muscle, the liver, the heart, the kidneys, and the brain. It has limited tissue storage, requiring a relatively constant influx or supplementation. It is an important cofactor in amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism.

Thiamine Supplement Options:

Health Benefits

Good evidence exists for

  • Reduce complications of
    • Leigh’s disease
    • Maple syrup urine disease
    • pyruvate carboxylase deficiency
  • Individuals at risk for malabsorption issues
    • Crohn’s disease
    • Bariatric surgery patients
    • Short bowel syndrome

Here are some of the potential benefits. However most of these benefits require more research to be considered conclusive.

  • Prevent kidney disease in folks with type 2 diabetes
  • Other diabetes complications
  • Prevent cataracts
  • Reduce risk/symptoms of alzheimer’s
  • Reduce heart failure risk
  • Some forms of anemia
  • Joint and rheumatoid disease
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Hip Fractures
  • Preventing cervical cancer
  • Improving athletic performance

Other Formulations

Sulbutiamine is a polymer of two thiamine molecules bound together. May have other benefits compared to simple thiamin because it is more lipophilic. These potential benefits include

  • Neuroprotective
  • Glutamine, Cholinergic, and Dopamine sensitivity
  • Memory improvement
  • Reduction in fatigue

Benfotiamine is another thiamine derived compound. It may be helpful with

  • Pain perception
  • Reduce stress on cardiac muscle
  • Reduce complications of diabetes
  • Increase glucose utilization by skeletal muscle
  • Potential anti-oxidant

Best Dietary Sources

  • Yeast
  • Legumes (beans, lentils)
  • Meat: pork, beef
  • Grains: rice, oats, wheat
  • Cereals and cereal grains
  • Nuts
  • Milk
  • Oranges
  • Seeds


Deficiency can lead to Adult and Child Beri-beri, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, and Leigh syndrome.


Because the kidneys clear thiamine efficiently, no toxic syndrome really exists and it is excreted quickly.

Recommended Daily Allowance

Dosages are usually between 1-2 mg/ day in adults. The RDA is 1.2 mg daily for adult men and 1.1 mg daily for adult women (about 0.5 mg/1000 kcal), and 1.4 mg/day during pregnancy and lactation

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