What Is Thiamin?
Known as Vitamin B1, thiamin was the very first B-Vitamin discovered. As an integral part of the B-complex spectrum of vitamins, thiamin is primarily involved in energy metabolism – turning foods into a useable energy source for the body, known as ATP (adenosine triphosphate). All of the B-vitamins work together to produce ATP, and each different vitamin is also involved in more specific aspects of the human body. Thiamin helps support healthy nerves and a healthy heart, is involved in positively influencing mood, and is also now considered useful for soothing heartburn.
How does Thiamin Work?
Besides playing an important role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and protein, thiamin is also necessary to maintaining heart health. The human heart pumps blood in and out of its chambers numerous times a day, feeding blood through vessels to the various parts of the human body – it is the hardest working organ in the human body. Regular daily intake of Thiamin is essential to people suffering from congestive heart failure (CHF) because it has been shown to improve the heart’s “pumping power.” Thiamin has been found in very low levels in those people with CHF. Long term use of diuretic drugs, which are often prescribed to CHF patients, deplete the body’s storage of Thiamin. One study of CHF patients on diuretics showed that taking at least 200 mg. of Thiamin each day for 6 weeks improved the heart’s pumping power by 22%.
Not only does Thiamin help support a healthy working heart, it also helps promote healthy nerve function throughout the body. Although there are a number of diseases that affect nerve health, diabetics especially suffer from nerve damage, if the disease is uncontrolled, resulting in a numbing of the extremities, usually detected first as a tingling in the hands and/or feet. Thiamin may be used to support overall nerve health, ultimately minimizing numbness and tingling and helping to protect against this condition.
Often recommended by health professionals for mood disorders, the intake of Thiamin to boost mood is valuable, even when the vitamin is not deficient in the body. One study of a group of college-age women who were not deficient in Thiamin reported improved mood, energy and alertness after just 2 months of taking 50 mg. of Thiamin a day. And yet another study showed that taking 10 mg. of thiamin each day for 3 months improved energy levels in the elderly, along with lowered blood pressure, healthy weight loss and an improved quality of sleep. Recent reports claim that Thiamin may be helpful in treating the memory-loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, although this has not yet been fully proven.
Like all of the B-complex Vitamins, the body requires a steady dose of Thiamin each day to function at optimal levels because it is water-soluble. Deficiency can have a negative effect on mood, including increased irritability and depression, as well as result in increased muscle fatigue. Severe deficiency results in a condition known as beriberi, resulting in nerve damage, muscle loss, loss of mental abilities, paralysis and eventually death. Since Thiamin is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess that is taken in and not used by the body, will simply be excreted in the urine, so toxicity is not a concern.
Thiamin is commonly added back to milled foods marketed (as “enriching”) to prevent deficiency. Thiamin is found specifically in enriched grain products, dried bean, nuts & seeds, lean pork and whole grains. It is important to be aware that drinking diuretics, such as coffee, tea, or soda, can deplete Thiamin levels so it is important to drink those in moderation, or be sure to take extra Thiamin.
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