Vitamin B1 Thiamin Health Benefits
Vitamin B1 Thiamin Health Benefits
Given that thiamin is a key factor in many different aspects of body functioning, it is no surprise that a sufficient intake of this vital nutrient can produce significant health benefits. Some of those demonstrated and presumed benefits are enumerated here, along with relevant research findings.
Increased energy, better appetite, and less fatigue
Thiamin provides a quick boost of energy and helps ward off fatigue. It can also perk up your appetite. Two of the first symptoms of thiamin deficiency are a lack of appetite and excessive tiredness. On the other hand, both of these symptoms can have many causes. There is little research support for the commonly held belief that thiamin supplements will eliminate fatigue in healthy individuals who do not have a thiamin deficiency
Thiamin boosts the immune system and helps make a person less vulnerable to cell damage associated with certain degenerative diseases that are prevalent in the elderly.
Improved mental alertness
While the ability of thiamin to make a difference in those who are not cognitively impaired is not clearly established, it certainly cannot hurt. We do know that a thiamin deficiency can contribute to decreased mental alertness and impaired judgment and reasoning.
Loss of memory is another big concern as we get older. A thiamin-rich diet may help improve memory.
Preventing or treating Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly
Seriously impaired memory and cognitive functioning are some of the symptoms frequently seen in patients with a thiamin deficiency. Also, the elderly are a segment of the population that is particularly vulnerable concerning both significant cognitive and memory deficits and low thiamin levels. Given the growing medical concern with the widespread incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, reports from researchers of low blood levels of thiamin in Alzheimer’s disease patients have heightened interest in exploring the presumed relationship further. It seems reasonable that thiamin supplementation might be beneficial, first in reducing the risk that conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease will occur and in treating the symptoms if dementia is already present. However, the data that have been collected thus far show mixed results and are inconclusive.
One study involving 76 elderly patients (including 35 with low erythrocyte concentrations of TPP on two measurements and 41 with low concentrations of TPP on one measure) were randomly assigned to a group. The group either received10 mg of thiamin or a placebo daily for three months. Before and after measurements were obtained of blood pressure, hand-grip strength, height and weight and body mass index (BMI). In addition, cognitive functioning and general health were assessed, respectively, by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Frenchay Activities Index and Nottingham Health Profile, and daily alcohol and food intake was assessed via a questionnaire.
The results showed significantly increased TPP erythrocyte concentrations in the group receiving thiamin supplementation, as compared with the group receiving the placebo. However, thiamin supplementation was only associated with such improvement as lower blood pressure and weight and better quality of life in those with two low TPP measurements (indicating a more persistent thiamin deficiency). Thiamin supplementation apparently had no effect on grip strength, cognitive function, and general health.
Another study of 18 dementia patients randomly assigned the subjects to receive either 3,000 mg thiamin or a placebo daily for one month. Comparison of the baseline and post-experiment Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS) scores showed significant improvement in the thiamin treated group compared to the control sample. In addition, 17 patients (including six of the original 18) were given 4,000 to 8,000 mg thiamin daily for 5-13 months, with dosages increased monthly. ADAS scores at different points in the treatment compared with the baseline likewise showed some improvement. However, there was no significant difference from baseline measures on the MMSE or Clinical Global Impressions of Change. The investigators concluded that the high dose thiamin therapy is probably only mildly beneficial in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Possibly a more effective approach might be to focus on prevention efforts, like incorporating more thiamin (and other B vitamins) into elderly patients’ diets and, if intake is low, adding a multivitamin/mineral supplement providing 100% of the RDA.
Treatment of alcoholics
Excessive use of alcohol puts the affected individual at high risk for thiamin deficiency, which if left to progress, could lead to the condition known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (a form of beriberi). Studies have shown that alcoholics treated with thiamin supplements exhibited improved mental functioning and awareness. Also, therapeutic doses of thiamin have been used with alcoholics starting a treatment program who were experiencing withdrawal. However, there are no clear guidelines about what the optimal dose is and how long the treatment should be continued.
Treating other nervous system disorders
Increased thiamin has been proposed as part of the treatment for numerous other disorders of the nervous system, including such diverse conditions as multiple sclerosis, Bell’s palsy (paralysis of the facial nerves), and neuritis. Thiamin treatment has been shown to be helpful in decreasing the sensory neuropathy associated with diabetes and in reducing pain in patients with trigeminal neuralgia.
Relieving the symptoms of anxiety and depression
Because anxiety and depression are common in individuals who have been diagnosed with a thiamin deficiency, the use of thiamin supplements to treat these symptoms is being investigated. However, anxiety and depression can have multiple causes, not necessarily related to thiamin intake.
Maintaining good heart health
Adequate thiamin intake may help prevent the accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries that lead to atherosclerosis. Thiamin also has a mild diuretic effect so it can help prevent edema and keep blood pressure down. Thiamin is in fact used to treat a variety of cardiovascular problems.
The Blue Mountains Eye Study followed 2,900 adults in Australia, ages 49-97. The investigators found that increased dietary intake of thiamin was associated with a 40% reduction in the risk for cataracts.
Improving healing after surgery
Thiamin is often used to help patients heal faster after dental surgery.
Treating mouth ulcers
Low erythrocyte levels of thiamin have been associated with recurrent mouth ulcers. According to a study of 60 individuals with recurring mouth ulcers, 28.2% had a deficiency in at least one of the B-complex vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and pyridoxine. All 60 were given replacement therapy of all three vitamins for a one month period, at the end of which and three months after that, the mouth ulcers in those with the vitamin deficiency showed significant improvement. However, the study did not clearly establish that the benefits were specifically attributable to thiamin.
By aiding hydrochloric acid production, thiamin may help digestion and reduce symptoms such as cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. Thiamin can also remedy constipation by increasing intestinal muscle tone.
Treating motion sickness
Since thiamin seems to relieve nausea symptoms, it is sometimes used to treat motion sickness.
Treating skin problems
Those with dry, itchy skin or with specific conditions like acne, vitiligo (loss of skin pigmentation), or cheilitis (cracks at the corner of the mouth) as well as the more serious disorder herpes zoster (shingles) may benefit from thiamin treatment.
Treating premenstrual symptoms and symptoms associated with menopause
Many women are affected both physically and emotionally, and treatment with thiamin may help relieve some of the unpleasant symptoms.
Some people’s blood makes them ready targets for bites from mosquitoes and other insects. Since some thiamin is excreted through the skin, supplementary thiamin may act as an insect repellant for those individuals.
Treating beriberi and other symptoms of thiamin deficiency
Prevention of deficiency is far better, but once the deficiency is diagnosed, treatment with thiamin, under medical supervision, can often be helpful.