The B Complex Vitamin Thiamin

Thiamin is part of the B Complex vitamins, which are a group of water-soluble vitamins that help and participate in many chemical reactions in one's body. Thiamin was actually the first vitamin B ever discovered and is known as vitamin B1. It is in quite a few common foods and has many benefits, an interesting history, and two serious deficiencies.

Thiamin has many uses in the body and benefits. For children, thiamin is needed for growth. It mainly aids in energy production, promotes healthy nerves, strengthens nerves, and even sooths heartburn. It's also known for improving one's mood, helping with depression, and assisting in learning and memory. For regular people, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) recommends a daily dose of 1.5 mg and 1.1 mg for males and females for 15-50 years of age. For men and women over 50, the daily dose is 1.2 mg and 1.1 mg. Overdosing on thiamin is uncommon, because the body efficiently eliminates any extra by urinating.

The best food source of thiamin is probably lean pork. It's other sources are whole grains or cereals, dried beans, dried nuts, and seed enriched grain produces. One would need about half a cup of unshelled sunflower seeds to get 1.5 mg of thiamin.

Minor thiamin deficiencies include mild irritability, weight loss, depression, and muscle weakness. Notice most of the deficiencies are the exact opposite of some of thiamin's benefits. Severe thiamin deficiencies result in beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Beriberi can cause muscle to waste away, paralysis, nerve damage, and eventually death in severe cases. It is mostly seen in parts of southeast Asia where polished rice is eaten and thiamine enrichment programs are not fully in place, but is rarely seen in the US. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is mainly seen in alcoholics and causes confusion, multiple nerve damage which may result in paralysis of an eye, impaired memory, and in severe cases one might slip into a coma.

Thiamin was actually discovered eventually by studying one of it's deficiencies, beriberi. During the 1880s, about 40 of the Japanese Navy suffered from beriberi. The Director General of the Japanese Naval Medical Services, Dr. K. Takaki, noticed a connection between the diet of sailors and beriberi. He ordered the sailors' rice rations to be switched in exchange for vegetables, barley, fish and meat. Six years later, beriberi was gone from the Japanese Navy and a law was passed to keep Takaki's diet in the Navy. Later in 1926, Drs. Jansen and Donath, after working diligently for 25 years, finally had crystallized B1 from rice bran in the US. They, along with Dr. Robert R. Williams, had been enlisted by the Army's Medical Officer Captain Edward B. Vedder, who had been convinced by the work of many researchers that beriberi was caused by a nutritional deficiency. He hadn't known what was missing at the time, though. The incorrect formula for thiamin was published by Jansen and Donath, but Williams finally corrected it in 1936. Williams was also allowed to name the vitamin and he named it thiamin.

Thiamin is an essential vitamin for the body. Without it, many would suffer from beriberi. In the US, we don't have to worry too much about it. Our friends might ask us to take some extra thiamin, though, to put us in a better mood.