Vitamin B1, more known as Thiamine is characterized by its white crystalline appearance with a distinctive smell of yeast. Thiamine has been named by the Greek-word ‘Thein’.
The vitamin consists of a pyrimidine-and thiazole ring which is dovetailed by a CH2-group. In the food Thiamine occurs either in free form, as a thiamine-diphosphate (TDP) or bound to protein.
After the bound form of Thiamine has been released it is absorbed in the small intestines upper area. Alcohol and some medicines may have an inhibitory effect on the absorption. In the cells of the small intestine the Thiamine is transformed into the coenzyme thiamine-diphosphate, which is the physical active substance of Vitamin B1.
Just as other Vitamins in the B-complex, Thiamine can also be synthesized by intestinal bacteria. The amounts able for the body to use by synthesis are not determined as of today.
The body is not able to store Thiamine in any large amounts. In an adult who eats a mixed diet the total amount of stored Thiamine is approximately 30 mg, of which 50% are stored in the muscles alone. Other tissues with stored Thiamine are the heart, liver and the kidneys. Since the overflow of Thiamine is excreted through the kidneys it means that diuretic substances, such as alcohol will increase the excretion of the vitamin.
Like the other B-vitamins Thiamine has also an important role in the metabolism to release energy in the food we ingest. The coenzyme TDP (thiamine-diphosphate) is required for several reactions in the carbohydrate metabolism.
TDP is also involved in the construction of the ribose; during that process TDP is responsible for the activation of the enzyme that is needed to form ribose. Despite that a very small amount of the body’s total glucose-levels are formed into ribose this process is vital for our health since ribose is a part of both DNA and RNA.
Early symptoms if having lack of Vitamin B1 are for instance; loss of appetite, impaired concentration, fatigue and irritability. Later symptoms like weight loss and constipation may occur.
Deficiency of Vitamin B1 allows pyruvate and other intermediate substances (metabolites) to be gathered in blood and tissues, with damage to the nervous system as a result by these poisonous substances.
Vitamin B1 is essential for us, and since it’s a water soluble vitamin we need to ingest it daily. It’s important to remember that diuretic substances will increase the excretion of Vitamin B1, which means that people with a high intake of alcohol may be in the risk-zone with chronic nerve injuries as a result unless treatment with supplement is started in an early stage.
Vitamin B1, as Thiamine occurs in most of our foods, from both animal- and vegetable origins.