8 Health Benefits Of Thiamine (Vitamin B1) [with food sources, dosage and more]

The Remedy For Weight Loss, Muscle Cramps And More- Here are 8 Amazing Benefits of Vitamin B1 That You Might Not Know.

Vitamin B1 doesn’t really get the same amount of attention as vitamins A or C. But is it important? Are there any health benefits of Vitamin B1? Let’s find out.

What is Vitamin B1?

Vitamin B1 or Thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin, naturally present in some foods and added to some as a dietary supplement. Belonging to the B complex family it is a heat-labile vitamin, with Antioxidant, Erythropoietic, Mood Modulating, and Glucose-Regulating Activities [1]

The name Thiamine comes from two words- ‘Thio’ meaning sulphur and ‘amine’ which refers to the nitrogen groups in the molecule. This vitamin plays a critical role in energy metabolism and therefore, in the growth, development, and function of cells,

But do you know why B-complex vitamins or thiamine are sometimes called an “anti-stressor”? It is because they improve the body’s ability to withstand stressful conditions and strengthen the immune system. This also helps the nervous system function properly and is needed for proper brain function. 

A daily intake of thiamine-rich foods is needed as our body can store only small amounts in the liver.

Although symptoms of thiamine deficiency were first recorded in ancient texts of Chinese medicine, the symptoms were not connected with the diet until the late 19th century. Later it was found that people who only consumed white rice had very high rates of illness and death as polished rice lacks this vitamin, it is removed during the milling process (the bran and the germ part contain this vitamin).

Who is at risk of B1 deficiency?

It is rare to be deficient in thiamine especially in developed countries. It is more common in people with specific medical conditions like:

  • Alcoholism
  • Crohn disease
  • Anorexia 
  • Those undergoing kidney dialysis.
  • Those taking loop diuretics for congestive heart failure.

 Symptoms of thiamine deficiency are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Abdominal discomfort

Carbohydrates are also not easily digested in people with thiamine deficiency. This leads to pyruvic acid buildup in the bloodstream, causing a loss of mental alertness, difficulty breathing, and heart damage, resulting in a disease known as Beriberi.

Another major deficiency disease is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome which affects the nervous system and causes visual impairments, a lack of muscle coordination, and mental decline. If Wernicke’s disease is left untreated, it leads to Korsakoff syndrome which permanently impairs memory functions in the brain.

8 Health Benefits of Vitamin B1

1) Metabolism

ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the main energy-carrying molecule and the body needs thiamine to make ATP.

Thiamine (thiamine diphosphate, the main active form of the vitamin) is essential for the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose which is the preferred source of energy that the body runs off of to keep your metabolism running smoothly. It also helps break down protein and fats [2].

17% to 79% of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have low thiamine ranges. Studies have found that increasing Vitamin B1 intake decreases the severity of symptoms or increases sugar metabolism which is associated with early-stage diabetes [3].

2) Immunity

Like other B-complex vitamins, Vitamin B1 is sometimes called an “anti-stress” vitamin because it may strengthen the immune system and improve the body’s ability to withstand stressful conditions [4].

3) Brain

Thiamine plays a key role in the maintenance of brain function and many studies have reported low levels of thiamine and pyruvate dehydrogenase dysfunction in patients with a condition that causes loss of movement (ataxia). Long-term treatment showed significant improvements [5]. 

Decreased activities of thiamine enzymes have also been reported in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases independent of patient’s malnutrition.

In the brain, it is required both by the nerve cells and by other supporting cells in the nervous system [6].

4) Cardiovascular Health

Thiamine is vital for normal cardiac function since severe thiamine deficiency leads to congestive heart failure (wet beriberi) [7].

In a review of 20 clinical studies, supplementation with thiamine improved cardiac function in people with heart failure [8]. And Compared against placebo in 2 randomized, double-blind trials, thiamine supplementation resulted in a significant improvement in the blood pumping mechanism of the heart [9].

5) Cataracts

Recent studies suggest that thiamine may lower the risk of developing cataracts. These studies show that getting enough protein along with vitamins A, B1, B2, and B3 in the diet reduces the chances of developing cataracts. Taking vitamins C, E, and B-complex further protects the lens of the eye [10].

6) Digestion

Thiamine is also necessary for the proper functioning of the digestive system as it increases the production of hydrochloric acid, which is needed for maintaining proper digestive function [1].


Vitamin B1 is important for balancing blood sugar levels, which plays a significant factor in anxiety levels. Thiamine has been used successfully at doses of 250 mg/day to treat patients with anxiety disorders, including symptoms like chronic fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, anorexia, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, depression, aggression, etc. [12].

8)Period cramps and PMS

In a study involving 240 women with dysmenorrhea (Cramps and pelvic pain), some women took 100mg of vitamin B1 every day for two menstrual cycles, while others took placebo pills. The data showed that vitamin B1 supplements significantly reduced the severity of period cramps, as well as how long the cramps lasted. It also reduced pain intensity by nearly a third, and slashed pain duration in half. [13].

Food sources of thiamine

Thiamine is present in a wide variety of foods. The major contributors to our diet are:

Food Thiamine (mg)/serving [13]
Wheat germ breakfast cereal 100g 1.46
Pork, lean, cooked, 100g 0.45
Fortified breakfast cereal 100g 0.31
Spinach (cooked, boiled) 100g 0.14
Orange 100g 0.11
Milk  100g                                      0.12
Egg cooked, hard-boiled 0.03

Other good sources are:

  • Whole cereal grains
  • Peanuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Green beans
  • Watermelon
  • Sunflower seeds

What is the best way to get my Thiamine levels checked? 

Thiamine levels are measured in patients with behavioral changes, gait disturbances, or in patients with questionable nutritional status, or pregnant women with morning sickness, especially those who appear at risk and who also are being given insulin for hyperglycemia.

To assess a thiamine deficiency whole blood thiamine testing is done.

Values for thiamine diphosphate of less than 70 nmol/L suggest a thiamine deficiency.

How much vitamin B1 is too much?

Daily recommendations for dietary vitamin B1 are

Newborns 6 months 0.2 mg
Infants 7 months to 1 year 0.3 mg
Children 1 to 3 years 0.5 mg
Children 4 to 8 years 0.6 mg
Men 14 to 18 years 1.2 mg
Women 14 to 18 years 1 mg 
Men  19 years and older 1.2 mg
Women  19 years and older 1.1 mg
Pregnant or breastfeeding women   1.4 mg

It is unlikely to have the toxicity of thiamine from food sources alone. There is no established toxic level of thiamine in the setting of very high intakes, your body will absorb less of the nutrient and flush out any excess amount through the urine. Thiamine is likely safe when taken by mouth or intravenously (by IV) or as a shot into the muscle by a healthcare provider, although rare allergic reactions can occur in some people. Thiamine shots are an FDA-approved prescription product.

For thiamine dosage by injections, medication, or supplements it is best to advise your doctor.

Who needs Thiamine?

Most people get enough thiamine in their diets to prevent a deficiency, particularly from foods However, if you are deficient or have another condition, your doctor or nutritionist may recommend a supplement. Children aged 12 years or older and Most adults can take thiamine.

Following people should consult their doctor before starting thiamine supplements:

Pregnancy and breastfeeding women: when taken in the recommended amount of 1.4 mg thiamine is likely safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.          

Alcoholics and people with cirrhosis: Nerve pain in alcoholism can be worsened by thiamine deficiency so these people might require thiamine supplementation.

Critical illness: People that had surgery or are critically ill might have low levels of thiamine so they might require supplements.

Heart failure: People with heart failure might require thiamine supplements as they have low levels of thiamine. 

Haemodialysis: People undergoing hemodialysis treatments might have low levels of thiamine.

Malabsorption syndromes: It is a syndrome in which it is difficult for the body to absorb nutrients so they may have low levels of thiamine. 

Thiamine supplement

Vitamin B1 supplements doses provide beyond what food alone can offer You can get thiamine supplement on prescription it comes as standard-release and slow-release tablets. For people with severe vitamin B deficiency, it is generally advised to take an injection. 

You can buy thiamine supplements from local pharmacies, supermarkets or online websites. You can take thiamine with or without food or as advised by your doctor. These supplements include multivitamin tablets where thiamine is listed as an ingredient.

For treating a deficiency, your prescribed dose will usually stay the same until your levels are back to normal.

Taking thiamine can cause allergies in rare cases. Speak to your doctor if you want to take supplements for any reason. 

What to look for in a supplement?

  1. Look out for artificial coloring and dyes.
  2. Look for labels like gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan based on your preferences
  3. Make sure it contains the active form of vitamins 
  4. Look at the dosage as prescribed by your doctor.


Q: How much thiamine is in eggs?

A: 1 large hard-boiled egg contains 0.03mg [13]

Q: What food has the most vitamin b1?

A: Outer layers and germ of cereals have high concentrations of thiamine. Pork, nuts, whole grains, and pulses are also some excellent sources

Q: What does vitamin B1 do for your body?

A: It prevents complications in the nervous system, brain, muscles, heart, stomach, and intestines and helps in the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose

Q: When should I take vitamin B1?

A: It can be taken any time of the day before or after the meal.

Q: How much vitamin B1 should a diabetic take?

A: It is best to consult a doctor in case of taking any supplement as they will consider all your medical conditions before advising a dose.

Wrapping up

Most people get enough thiamine from food to prevent any deficiency. Certain dietary practices and medical conditions can cancel out the body’s usage of thiamine. Thiamine is easily destroyed with high-heat cooking or long cooking times. It may also be removed during food processing this is why thiamine is added back, to many breads, cereals that have undergone processing.  Therefore advising a doctor before taking any thiamine supplement is recommended. 


  1. NCI thesaurus, Thiamine (Code C874), 2021
  2. Derrick Lonsdale, A review of the biochemistry, metabolism and clinical benefits of thiamin(e) and its derivatives, National Library of Medicine, March 2006
  3. National Institute of Health, Thiamin- Fact sheet for health professionals, March 2021
  4. A. D. Pletsityi, Changes in activity of some mechanisms of specific and nonspecific immunity in vitamin B1 deficiency, Springer Link, July 1979
  5. Antonio Costantini , Tiziana Laureti , Maria Immacolata Pala , Marco Colangeli , Simona Cavalieri , Elisa Pozzi , Alfredo Brusco, Sandro Salvarani , Carlo Serrati , Roberto Fancellu, Long-term treatment with thiamine as possible medical therapy for Friedreich ataxia, National Library of Medicine, November 2016
  6. Peter R. Martin, M.D., Charles K. Singleton, Ph.D., and Susanne Hiller–Sturmhöfel, Ph.D. , The Role of Thiamine Deficiency in Alcoholic Brain Disease, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2003
  7. James J DiNicolantonio, Asfandyar K Niazi, Carl J Lavie, James H O’Keefe, Hector O Ventura, Thiamine supplementation for the treatment of heart failure: a review of the literature, National Library of Medicine, 2013
  8. James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, Carl J. Lavie, MD, FACC, FACP, FCCP, Asfandyar K. Niazi, James H. O’Keefe, MD, and Tian Hu, MD, MS|, Effects of Thiamine on Cardiac Function in Patients With Systolic Heart Failure: Systematic Review and Metaanalysis of Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trials, The Ochsner Journal, 2013
  9. S J Bakker,Low thiamine intake and risk of cataract, National Library of Medicine, July 2001, 
  10. L G Levin, G Iu Mal’tsev, M M Gapparov, Effect of thiamine deficiency in hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach, National Library of Medicine, 1978
  11. Stacey Cornish and Lewis Mehl-Madrona, The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Psychiatry, Integrative Medicine Insight, 2008
  12. A. Hosseinlou, V. Alinejad, M. Alinejad, and N. Aghakhani, Effects of Fish Oil Capsules and Vitamin B1 Tablets on Duration and Severity of Dysmenorrhea in Students of High School in Urmia-Iran, Global Journal of Health Science, 2014 
  13. U.S. Department of Agriculture, FoodData Central,2021
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