Vitamin B1 Thiamin Functions
Thiamin performs a variety of very important functions in the human body. While individual requirements vary, nobody, regardless of age or health status, can afford to be without this essential nutrient for any significant length of time. The body has very little storage capacity not only for thiamin but the B vitamins in general. Therefore, for optimum health, the body must receive a sufficient ongoing supply of all of the B-complex vitamins, including thiamin, on a regular basis. You will be better able to appreciate the importance of this vitamin as we take a more in-depth look at its various functions.
Contributing in Multiple Ways to the Normal Metabolic Functioning of the Body
The process by which sugar is converted into energy in the presence of oxygen cannot take place without an adequate supply of this vitamin. Thiamin is part of an enzyme system that makes the energy production process possible. The coenzyme form of the vitamin, thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP) is needed to convert pyruvate to acetyl coenzyme A, which in turn plays a key role in the cellular production of energy, mainly in glucose metabolism. Thiamin is also involved in the initial stages of fatty acid and sterol production, whereby some carbohydrates are converted to fat that can be stored in the body as a potential source of energy in the future.
Thiamin, in the form of TPP, is also needed for the synthesis of triglycerides and the proper metabolism of amino acids.
Another function of the thiamin coenzyme, TPP, is to enable DNA and RNA synthesis.
DNA is the genetic material that, along with RNA, controls protein synthesis.
Supporting the Nervous System and Coordinating Nerve and Muscle Activity
Thiamin with TPP acting in a non-enzyme capacity is very important to the normal functioning of the nervous system. It is believed to play a major role in either neurotransmitter production or the generation of nerve impulses. Thiamin enables the development of myelin sheaths, the fat-like coverage surrounding the nucleus. Otherwise, in the absence of this vitamin, damage to the nerve coverings is likely.
Also, Thiamin plays an important role in the production of the messenger molecule, acetylcholine, which acts as a neurotransmitter to send messages between the nerves and muscles. An adequate supply of thiamin is essential for the production of acetylcholine, which is needed to regulate the muscle tone of the stomach, intestines, and heart. Because a lack of thiamin makes the nerves more sensitive to inflammation, we need this nutrient to keep the nervous system working smoothly. Otherwise, serious and possibly irreversible damage can occur.
Thiamin is linked to learning capacity and growth in children. Numerous research studies demonstrate the adverse effect of deprivation of this vital nutrient during the critical developmental period on both physical and mental growth.
Promoting Healthy Cardiovascular Functioning
Because acetylcholine is needed for proper muscle tone in the heart, a deficiency in thiamin can also interfere with normal cardiac functioning. Also, adequate thiamin levels may help prevent the accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries and thereby slow down the progression of atherosclerosis.
Acting Synergistically with other B-Complex Vitamins
Thiamin cannot perform its diverse roles properly without help from other nutrients. For example, it not only works in close conjunction with other B complex vitamins; the proper absorption of this vitamin depends on the simultaneous presence of adequate supplies of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate. The best way to ensure receiving the recommended daily amounts of all of these B vitamins is to eat a thiamin-rich diet because the same foods that are rich in thiamin are also likely to contain significant amounts of the other B vitamins.