Vitamin B1 Deficiency

The best food sources to get the most benefits

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A vitamin B1 deficiency is rare because the average diet supplies easily enough. However it is not impossible and there are symptoms to look out for. The major functions of vitamin B1 are energy production and nerve health.  B1 is needed for energy release from food, especially glucose and is needed to convert carbohydrates, fats and alcohol into energy.  The main benefits of vitamin B1 are that it has valuable antioxidant properties, it enhances circulation and assists in blood formation and stomach acid formation, which is important for digestion. 

Vitamin B1 deficiency symptoms include:

  • Fatigue - made worse by eating carbohydrates and physical exercise
  • Enlarged heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach pains, indigestion and constipation
  • Reduced hand and foot dexterity
  • Eye pains
  • Weakness or tenderness of muscles
  • Depression, confusion and inability to concentrate
  • Poor wound healing
  • Loss of appetite

Beriberi is a disease of the nervous system that is rare in the western world and is caused by deficiency of vitamin B1.  It is common in countries where white rice forms a large part of daily diet, because white rice contains hardly any vitamin B1 at all.  It is however found in high amounts in brown rice. 

The following may increase needs for or contribute to a deficiency of B1:

  • Alcohol
  • High sugar or refined carbohydrate diets
  • Coffee and tea
  • Raw fish and shellfish - contain substances that breakdown B1
  • Cooking - vitamin B1 is water soluble and heat unstable
  • Alkaline agents such as baking powder or antacids
  • Antibiotics
  • Smoking
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Prolonged diuretic use
  • Stress - mental and physical

This vitamin helps to prevent the build up of toxic substances in the body that could cause damage to the nervous system and the heart.

Good food sources of vitamin B1 are:

  • Brown rice
  • White bread
  • Potatoes
  • Egg yolks
  • Oats
  • Pork
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Legumes
  • Avocado
  • Pineapple

Antibiotics, oral ccontraceptives and heavy alcohol or caffeine consumption may decrease levels of this vitamin in the body.  Alcoholics are among those most often deficient in vitamin B1.  Also those that have a high carbohydrate diet will require increased levels of this vitamin to help breakdown and metabolise the extra carbohydrate.

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