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The Energy Vitamins: Vitamin B1/ Thiamine

Written by Anri van der Merwe

Vitamin B1, part of the B-complex vitamins, is crucial in the metabolism of carbohydrates, therefore the conversion of carbohydrates into energy for fuel.

What does this mean?

Vitamin B1 helps the body convert food into energy for fuel. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (which in turn is saved as energy). Vitamin B1 therefore assists in the proper functioning of all the cells in the body. Vitamin B1 is essential for the optimal functioning of the cardiovascular system (the heart and blood vessels) and the muscular system, because it plays a vital role in muscle contraction. This vitamin also plays a role in the conduction of nerve signals and is therefore crucial in the functioning of the nervous system (incl. the brain).

Where can you find Vitamin B1?

Vitamin B1Vitamin B1 food sources include the following:

  • Whole grain products such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta, and flour
  • Beef liver and pork
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Legumes and peasVitamin B1
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Other dairy products, fruits and vegetables are not very high in vitamin B1, but when eaten in large quantities, they become a significant source of B1.

If one does not eat substantial quantities of these food sources you need to add a good quality food supplement that contains B1 and all the other B-vitamins.

B1 deficiency

A marginal* deficiency of vitamin B1 can cause fatigue, muscle weakness and nerve damage. The disease associated with extreme vitamin B1 deficiency is known as Beri-beri. Severe deficiency can also cause brain damage (Korsakoff syndrome and Wernicke’s disease).

How does a B1 deficiency occur?

  • When insufficient quantities of B1 is ingested
  • Alcohol abuse – the body struggles to absorb this vitamin from its food sources if there is too much alcohol in the body
  • Increased quantities are needed when pregnant or breast feeding, during long term stress or chronic illness
  • Adults also need substantially more B1 than children

Is it possible to take too much vitamin B1?

  • There is no known over dosage, because the B-complex vitamins are water soluble and can be excreted from the body in the urine, if high dosages are taken.


Important note: The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for micronutrients was developed many year ago as the minimum daily requirement of vitamins and minerals needed to prevent the vitamin/mineral deficiency diseases; in this case Beri-beri. However, for a micronutrient to act in a way to improve optimal health and wellbeing, the quantities must be much higher. In this article and the articles that will follow, we will focus on the amounts needed for optimal health, and NOT the amounts needed to prevent deficiency diseases.

The recommended dosage for B1 is merely a guideline as individual needs may differ. Some people may need more, others less. Age and gender also affect the amount of the vitamin needed for optimal health. This is merely a guideline or aid to simplify your choices when looking for a good quality food supplement.

So how much B1 should you take for optimal health?

Take 25-50 mg daily for optimal health.

Important: If you use a supplement that contains other micronutrients in the ingredient list (for e.g. a multivitamin & multimineral), remember that combination and synergy (co-operation) of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients are more important than the quantities of single micronutrients. If the quantity of B1 is less in your supplement but the supplement contains a number of other micronutrients, you can use less of each ingredient (for example 10-20mg B1 per day for a young adult or teen). Click here for a good quality antioxidant incl. optimal quantities of all necessary vitamins and minerals


Remember: Vitamin B1 is essential support for the body to make enough energy, therefore, take enough every day for optimal health and wellbeing.

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