Thiamine, Vitamin B1 importance

Daily needs for thiamine, Vitamin B1, are based on the amount of calories taken in each day.  The recommended daily allowances, called RDAs, for Vitamin B1 are based on 0.5 milligram (mg) for every 1,000 calories consumed.  Based on the recommended calorie intake for men and women at certain age levels, the RDAs for thiamine are:

  • men from 15 to 50 years = 1.5 mg
  • men over 50 years = 1.2 mg
  • women from 11 to 50 years = 1.1 mg
  • women over 50 years = 1.0 mg
  • pregnant women = 1.5 mg
  • breastfeeding women = 1.6 mg

Thiamine, also known as vitamin b1, is common in foods.  A balanced diet based on the Food Guide Pyramid should provide enough Vitamin B1 daily.

A disease called beriberi, which affects the nerves and heart, is caused by a lack of thiamine in the diet.  This is extremely rare in the United States, because enriched grain products are so common.  Before grains were enriched, it was much more common.


Mild thiamine deficiencies are more common.  Exceptions may be found with chronic alcoholism, fasting, the elderly, and chronic dieting.  Symptoms usually show up in the nerves, stomach, and heart.  Early warning signs include:

  • fatigue and weakness
  • loss of appetite and weight loss stomach upset and nausea
  • confusion and irritability
  • depression
  • poor memory
  • sleep disturbances
  • chest pain
  • irritationabdominal discomfort
  • constipation

If deficiency continues, symptoms can get worse, and some damage can be permanent.  This can include damage to the heart, and changes to the nervous system.


There is little chance of getting too much Vitamin B1, even when it is taken at high doses.  Because it is water soluble and not stored in the body, it is not likely to build up to toxic levels.  In older people with low levels of thiamine, taking vitamin B1 pills has improved their lives by decreasing both blood pressure and weight.  In isolated cases, however, thiamine toxicity has occurred from injections or concentrated formulas used with hospital patients.

Toxicity symptoms include nervous irritability, headaches, insomnia, and a rapid pulse.

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