Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, helps the body turn food into energy. It’s found in poultry, beans, fortified breads, and more. It’s also found in multivitamins or as an individual supplement.

Thiamine is an essential nutrient that all tissues of the body need to function properly. Thiamine was the first B vitamin that scientists discovered. This is why its name carries the number 1. Like the other B vitamins, thiamine is water-soluble and helps the body turn food into energy.

You can find it in:

  • a variety of foods
  • individual supplements
  • multivitamins

Read on to learn more about vitamin B1, including why it’s important, how to increase your intake, and signs of a thiamine deficiency.

Thiamine helps support many functions within the body, including the nervous system, heart, and brain. Thiamine is important for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is a molecule that transports energy within cells. It supports many functions in the body, including muscle contractions and the movement of signals from the brain.

A thiamine deficiency can impact many different functions of your body, and may cause:

  • muscle weakness
  • weight loss
  • confusion
  • short term memory loss

Thiamine deficiency can also lead to two major health problems: beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Beriberi affects:

  • breathing
  • eye movements
  • heart function
  • alertness

It’s caused by a buildup of pyruvic acid in the bloodstream, which is a side effect of your body not being able to turn food into fuel.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is technically two different disorders. Wernicke’s disease affects the nervous system and causes visual impairments, a lack of muscle coordination, and mental decline. If Wernicke’s disease is left untreated, it can lead to Korsakoff syndrome. Korsakoff syndrome permanently impairs memory functions in the brain.

Either disease can be treated with thiamine injections or supplements. This may help with vision and muscular difficulties. However, thiamine can’t mend permanent memory damage caused by Korsakoff syndrome.

Deficiency risk factors

While thiamine deficiency is rare in healthy adults, it’s more common in people living with certain medical conditions. That’s because certain conditions or treatments may impact thiamine levels in the body, including:

Most people can get all the thiamine they need from food. There are no real risk factors associated with thiamine consumption.

You can find thiamine in:

  • pork
  • poultry
  • peas
  • nuts
  • dried beans
  • soybeans
  • whole grain cereals
  • lentils
  • legumes
  • bread
  • rice
  • yeast

Many whole grain products are fortified with thiamine, such as:

  • cereal
  • bread
  • rice
  • pasta

Certain foods and dietary practices can negatively affect your body’s ability to absorb thiamine. This can increase your risk for deficiency. These include:

  • drinking lots of coffee or tea, even decaffeinated
  • chewing tea leaves and betel nuts
  • regularly eating raw fish and shellfish

While there is no evidence of any harm from consuming thiamine, it’s always a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your diet, especially if you are taking medications or have an underlying health concern.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend adding thiamine supplements into your diet, either through the use of a multivitamin that contains thiamine or as a standalone supplement.

In addition to helping manage a thiamine deficiency, thiamine supplements may be recommended to help manage or reduce the risk of some health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or cataracts.

Thiamine supplements are also used to treat people going through major alcohol withdrawal.

Make sure you consult your doctor before starting a vitamin regimen, especially when using thiamine to treat a deficiency. To keep a balance of B vitamins in your system, doctors often suggest B complex vitamins over individual B supplements for healthy adults.

The recommended daily allowance of thiamine is 1.2 mg for males and 1.1 mg for females over the age of 18 years. However, the amount that’s right for you may vary. In many cases, you may be able to get your daily intake through your diet.

It’s important to talk to a doctor before taking a supplement. They can help determine the right amount for you in addition to identifying any nutrient deficiencies you may have. Thiamine supplements can be taken with or without food.

Is it OK to take thiamine daily?

For most people, it should be safe to take thiamine daily. There is no evidence that an excess amount of thiamine causes any negative effects on the body, and there is no established upper limit for the amount of thiamine a person can take daily. However, it’s always best to follow the recommendations of a doctor when taking supplements.

What is the relationship between magnesium and thiamine?

Magnesium helps your body to absorb thiamine. If you have low thiamine levels, your doctor may recommend magnesium supplements in some cases. However, more research is needed to better understand the role of magnesium supplements in the treatment of thiamine deficiency.

Is vitamin B the same as vitamin B1?

There are 12 known B vitamins. Each B vitamin has a unique use within the body. B1, also known as thiamine, is just one of the types of B vitamins.

When choosing a supplement, you can either choose a thiamine or a B complex supplement. B complex vitamins are a blend of B vitamins. They may not contain all B vitamins, though, so it’s important to read the label to learn which B vitamins are included in the blend.

All tissues of the body need thiamine to function properly. Most people get enough thiamine from food. Certain medical conditions and dietary practices can cancel out the body’s usage of thiamine. This can lead to deficiency. In these cases, supplements may be necessary.

Talk to your doctor before taking any thiamine supplement. It’s key to ensure that you have the right balance of B vitamins in your body.