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Thiamine

Thiamine

Description

Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, was the first of the water-soluble B-vitamin family to be discovered. It is an essential component of an enzyme, thiamine pyrophosphate, that is involved in metabolizing carbohydrates. Thiamine works closely with other B vitamins to assist in the utilization of proteins and fats as well, and helps mucous membranes and the heart to stay healthy. The brain relies on thiamine's role in the conversion of blood sugar (glucose) into biological energy to function properly. Thiamine is also involved in certain key metabolic reactions occurring in nervous tissue, the heart, in the formation of red blood cells, and in the maintenance of smooth and skeletal muscle.

General use

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of thiamine is 0.3 mg for infants less than six months old, 0.4 mg for those from six months to one year old, 0.7 mg for children ages one to three years, 0.9 mg for those four to six years, and 1.0 mg for those seven to 10 years. Requirements vary slightly by gender after age 10. Males need 1.3 mg from 11 to 14 years, 1.5 mg from 15 to 50 years, and 1.2 mg when over age 50 years. Females require 1.1 mg from 11 to 50 years of age, and 1.0 mg if older than 50 years. The RDA is slightly higher for women who are pregnant (1.5 mg) or lactating (1.6 mg). Adults need a minimum of 1.0 mg of thiamine a day, but the requirement is increased by approximately 0.5 mg for each 1,000 calories of daily dietary intake over a 2,000-calorie base.

Thiamine has limited therapeutic use apart from supplements for people who are deficient or have significant risk factors for deficiency, such as alcoholism . High doses are used to treat some metabolic disorders, including certain enzyme deficiencies, Leigh's disease, and maple syrup urine disease. People suffering from diabetic neuropathy may sometimes benefit from additional thiamine. This supplementation should be taken only on the advice of a healthcare provider. Claims have been made that it can also help people with Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, canker sores, depression, fatigue, fibromyalgia , and motion sickness . Improvement of these conditions based on supplementation with thiamine is unsubstantiated. Although a deficiency of thiamine may cause canker sores, taking extra amounts of the vitamin after they appear does not seem to help them heal.

Preparations

Natural sources

While all plant and animal foods have thiamine, higher levels of thiamine are found in many nuts, seeds, brown rice, seafood, and whole-grain products. Sunflower seeds are a particularly good source. Grains are stripped of the B vitamin content during processing, but it is often added back to breads, cereals, and baked goods. Legumes, milk, beef liver, and pork are other foods with high vitamin B1 content. Thiamine is destroyed by prolonged high temperatures, but not by freezing. Food should be cooked in small amounts of water so that thiamine and other water-soluble vitamins don't leach out. Baking soda should not be added to vegetables, and fresh foods should be eaten to avoid sulfite preservatives. Both of these chemicals will break down the thiamine content found in foods. Drinking tea or alcohol with a meal will also drastically decrease the amount of thiamine that is absorbed by the body.

Supplemental sources

Thiamine is available in oral, intramuscular injectable, and intravenous formulations. Injectable formulas are usually preserved for persons who are severely thiamine deficient. Supplements should always be stored in a cool dry place, away from direct light, and out of the reach of children.

Deficiency

A deficiency of thiamine leads to a condition known as beriberi. Once common in sailors, it has become rare in the industrialized parts of the world except in cases of alcoholism and certain disease conditions. Beriberi is, however, frequently found in refugee camps and similar shelters for displaced persons. Infantile beriberi is presently the leading cause of death among the children of ethnic minority groups in southeast Asia. The syndrome typically causes poor appetite, abdominal pain , heart enlargement, constipation , weakness, swelling of limbs, muscle spasms, insomnia , and memory loss . Under treatment, the condition can resolve very quickly. Untreated beriberi will lead eventually to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. These patients experience confusion, disorientation, inability to speak, gait difficulties, numbness or tingling of extremities, edema, nausea, vomiting , visual difficulties, and may progress to psychosis, coma, and death. Even in advanced states, this condition can be reversible if thiamine is given, nutritional status is improved, and use of alcohol is stopped.

Risk factors for deficiency

The leading risk factor for developing a deficiency of thiamine is alcoholism. Generally, alcoholics eat poorly, and therefore have a low dietary intake of thiamine and other vitamins to begin with. Alcohol also acts directly to destroy thiamine and increases the excretion of it. People with cirrhosis of the liver, malabsorption syndromes, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic infections , or hypermetabolic conditions also have increased susceptibility to thiamine deficiency. The elderly are more prone to poor nutritional status as well as difficulties with absorption, and may need a supplement. Others with nutritionally inadequate diets , or an increased need as a result of stress , illness, or surgery may benefit from additional vitamin B1 intake since utilization is higher under these conditions. Those who diet or fast frequently may also be at risk for low levels of thiamine. Use of tobacco products, or carbonate and citrate food additives can impair thiamine absorption. A shortage of vitamin B1 is likely to be accompanied by a shortage of other B vitamins, and possibly other nutrients as well. A supplement containing a balance of B complex and other vitamins is usually the best approach unless there is a specific indication for a higher dose of thiamine, or other individual vitamins.

Precautions

Thiamine should not be taken by anyone with a known allergy to B vitamins, which occurs rarely.

Side effects

In very unusual circumstances, large doses of thiamine may cause rashes, itching , or swelling. These reactions are more common with intravenous injections than oral supplements. Most people do not experience any side effects from oral thiamine.

Interactions

Oral contraceptives, antibiotics, sulfa drugs, and certain types of diuretics may lower thiamine levels in the body. Consult a health care professional about the advisability of supplementation. Taking this vitamin may also intensify the effects of neuromuscular blocking agents that are used during some surgical procedures. B vitamins are best absorbed as a complex, and magnesium also promotes the absorption of thiamine.

Resources

BOOKS

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Griffith, H. Winter. Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals & Supplements: The Complete Guide. Arizona: Fisher Books, 1998.

Jellin, Jeff, Forrest Batz, and Kathy Hitchens. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. California: Therapeutic Research Faculty, 1999.

Pressman, Alan H., and Sheila Buff. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. New York: Alpha Books, 1997.

PERIODICALS

McGready, Rose, Julie A. Simpson, Thein Cho, et al. "Postpartum Thiamine Deficiency in a Karen Displaced Population." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 74 (December 2001): 808813.

OTHER

American Society for Nutritional Sciences. <http://www.nutrition.org>.

Judith Turner

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

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Thiamine

Thiamine

Like all the water-soluble B vitamins, thiamine functions as a coenzyme. Thiamine works primarily in the metabolism (processing) of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It also helps to produce ribose, an important sugar needed by all body cells for the production of nucleic acids.

Thiamine is neither synthesized (blended or created artificially) by the body's intestinal bacteria nor stored in fat tissues. Because the body neither produces nor stores thiamine, a daily dietary source is needed. Without such a source, both humans and most animals soon develop some form of deficiency disease. In humans, the disease is called beriberi. Beriberi is a serious and disabling disease characterized by polyneuritis (an inflammation of nerves in the arms and legs.) It was the search for a cure for beriberi that led to the discovery of thiamine.

Beriberi Research

In the 1880s most physicians were certain that beriberi was caused by some sort of toxic (poisonous) bacteria. The disease was particularly widespread in Far Eastern countries where rice was a dietary staple. Because of this, the bacteria was suspected to be in rice. In 1886 a commission was sent to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) to try and locate the causative organism. The commission failed to find the organism, but one of its members, Christiaan Eijkman (1858-1930) stayed behind to continue his experiments.

Between 1890 and 1897 Eijkman began reporting that chickens fed a diet high in polished rice developed symptoms similar to those of his beriberi patients. Even more important, Eijkman reported that adding rice hulls to the diet quickly effected a cure. A colleague named Gerrit Grijns found that other foodsincluding green peas and meatcould also prevent beriberi. In 1901 Grijns correctly deduced that beriberi was not the result of a bacteria based on his experiments which proved that certain natural foodstuffs contained an anti-beriberi factor.

Roughly a decade later Casimir Funk, a Polish-born biochemist, was inspired by reading the reports of Grijns and Eijkman. Funk began searching for the elusive anti-beriberi factor in rice hulls. He managed to isolate an active substance and was briefly elated. Unfortunately, the substance (which later proved to be niacin) had only minimal effect on beriberi. Funk discarded it and went on with his research.

In 1926 two other biochemists isolated a crystalline material that could actually cure polyneuritis in birds. The discovery was made by P. Jansen and W.P. Donath, working in the same laboratory in the Dutch East Indies originally used by Eijkman and Grijns. The two researchers called the substance they found aneurine. Too little of the substance could be isolated, however, to make identification certain.

A Rare Substance

In the 1930s scientists made important discoveries that would allow them to synthesize the substance. In 1932 German chemist Adolf Windaus (1876-1959) was able to isolate a sulfur atom in a molecule of another substance. This proved to be a crucial step in determining the structure of the elusive compound. In 1934 American chemist Robert Runnels Williams (1886-1965), isolated one-third of an ounce of the active crystalline material from almost a ton of rice hulls. His procedure used highly advanced laboratory techniques, but was too expensive to be used for mass production. Because the vitamin proved to contain a sulfur molecule (of the thio group) and an amine, the substance was named thiamine. Two years later, Williams and his colleagues successfully synthesized the substance.

Today thiamine is a regular component of many multivitamins and continues its role of preventing this ancient disease.

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Thiamin

Thiamin


B vitamins are complex, water-soluble organic chemicals, often containing heterocyclic ring systems (containing one or more atoms other than carbon atoms); they cannot be synthesized by humans and are, therefore, required nutrients. Each of these vitamins is converted by the body into a coenzyme. Coenzymes are cofactors essential to the catalytic activity of enzymes.

Thiamin is also known as vitamin B1. In the body it is converted to thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP), an essential coenzyme serving enzymes involved in the breakdown of nutrient molecules for energy. Thiamin deficiency in its severest form causes beriberi.

Thiamin is converted to TPP via the transfer of a pyrophosphate group to thiamin from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) .

In animals TPP-dependent decarboxylation reactions are essential to the production of energy needed for cell metabolism . In these reactions α -ketoacids are converted to acyl CoA molecules and carbon dioxide. The reactions (e.g., the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl CoA) are an important part of the breakdown of carbohydrates, and of the conversion of several classes of molecules (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) to energy, carbon dioxide, and water in the citric acid cycle. In other organisms, in addition to its participation in the above reactions, TPP is a required coenzyme in alcohol fermentation, in the carbon fixation reactions of photosynthesis , and in the biosynthesis of the amino acids leucine and valine.

Major food sources of thiamin are fortified breads, cereals, pasta, whole grains (especially wheat germ), lean meats (especially pork and liver), fish, peanuts, dried beans, peas, and soybeans. Fruits and vegetables are not high in thiamin but are a significant source of thiamin if they are consumed in large enough amounts. The daily value (DV) of thiamin for adults is 1.5 milligrams (5.3 × 105 ounces). Thiamin deficiency virtually does not occur in North America. Because thiamin is water-soluble and easily removed from the body there is no known toxicity.

Beriberi has been found in people who eat polished rice (with husks discarded) and few other foods, as thiamin is in the husks of grains. Beriberi is associated with damage to the nervous system, brain, heart, and blood vessels. It is fatal if not treated with adequate amounts of thiamin. Lesser deficiencies of thiamin lead to weakness and fatigue. These lesser deficiencies respond rapidly to thiamin unless they are complicated by another condition, for example, alcoholism.

CASIMIR FUNK (18841967)

Beriberi, a fatal disease, was prevalent at the turn of the nineteenth century among groups who ate large quantities of polished rice. Casimir Funk correctly theorized that the discarded polishings contained some nutrient for disease prevention. Funk isolated this item and called it a "vitamine," combining vite, meaning life, and amine.

Valerie Borek

see also Coenzyme.

Vivienne A. Whitworth

Bibliography

Nelson, David L., and Cox, Michael M. (2000). Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, 3rd edition. New York: Worth Publishers.

Internet Resources

"Thiamin." Yahoo Health. Available from <http://www.yahoo.com/health>.

"Thiamin Deficiency and Dependency." Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Available from <http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual>.

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thiamine

thi·a·mine / ˈ[unvoicedth]īəmin; -mēn/ (also thi·a·min / -min/ ) • n. Biochem. a vitamin of the B complex, found in unrefined grains, beans, and liver, a deficiency of which causes beriberi. It is a sulfur-containing derivative of thiazole and pyrimidine. Also called vitamin B1.

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thiamine

thiamine Vitamin B1 (see VITAMIN). It contributes to the formation of the important coenzyme thiamine pyrophosphate, which is involved in the oxidative decarboxylation of alpha-keto acids and transketolase reactions. A deficiency of this compound in humans causes beriberi.

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thiamine

thiamine Vitamin B1. It contributes to the formation of the important coenzyme thiamine pyrophosphate which is involved in the oxidative decarboxylation of alpha-keto acids and transketolase reactions.

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thiamine

thiamine Vitamin B1 of the B complex, required for carbohydrate metabolism. Its deficiency causes beriberi. Thiamine is found in grains, nuts, liver, yeast, and legumes.

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thiamin

thiamin (vitamin B1) (th'y-ă-min) n. see vitamin B.

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thiamine

thiamine: see coenzyme; vitamin.

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thiamin(e)

thiamin(e) See vitamin B complex.

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thiamin

thiamin See vitamin B1.

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thiamine

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