Thiamin is a member of the vitamin B family. It is often referred to as vitamin B1. This is likely because it was the first vitamin in this family to be identified. If it is consumed, it can be found in various parts of the body, including the brain, heart, and liver. The vitamin is essential to proper functioning of certain bodily systems.
People do not produce thiamin. Since it is essential, this means it must be derived from the foods they consume. The body does this by absorbing the vitamin through the small intestine during the digestive process.
Foods that contain the vitamin need to be eaten regularly, because the body does not store unused portions. It is believed that up to 30 milligrams may be found distributed throughout the body at one time. Regular intake is, therefore, required to prevent deficiency.
A thiamin deficiency can be fatal if it is left untreated. Symptoms of deficiency include constipation, digestive disorders, and depression. An extreme lack of the vitamin can result in a disease known as beriberi. This disease can damage both the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
The nervous system is heavily reliant on a sufficient supply of thiamin. Without it, serious complications may occur. For example, the brain may not respond properly to neural signals. A healthy cardiovascular system is also dependent upon a person’s thiamin intake. An enlarged heart, for example, is one of the results of deficiency.
Lack of intake is not the only cause of deficiency. Alcohol consumption and folic acid deficiency can prevent the body from properly absorbing the vitamin. Thiamin can, however, be administered in therapeutic doses to reverse many of the symptoms that result from deficiency. It may also be used to treat conditions that have developed for other reasons. These include alcoholism, insomnia, and depression.
Sufficient daily doses of this vitamin can be obtained from a number of sources. Vegetarians, for example, may choose to fulfill their requirements with foods such as sunflower seeds, turnip greens, and pineapples. In addition to the fruits and vegetables that contain the vitamin, mutton, pork, and eggs are good supply sources. Yeast is one of the best sources.
Thiamin is often destroyed during the processing of foods. Two examples when this happens is when rice is polished and wheat is processed. Certain preservatives have also been noted to destroy the vitamin. As a result, it is common to find foods that have been fortified with thiamin.