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Thiamin is also known as vitamin B1 and was first isolated from rice polishings in 1926.
Thiamin is one of the vitamins most easily attacked by environmental conditions. It is water-soluble and is lost by leaching into cooking water or dripping from thawed frozen foods. It is also destroyed rapidly by alkalis (e.g. bicarbonate of soda) and ultra violet light. Additionally, the preservative Sulphur dioxide destroys thiamin.
Thiamin functions in the body as part of the coenzyme thiamin pyrophosphate. This coenzyme is vital for the release of energy from carbohydrates, fats and alcohol.
A severe deficiency of thiamin is now rarely seen in the West, but extremely low intakes lead to a condition known as beri-beri, which is fatal if not quickly treated with thiamin. Symptoms of beri-beri are muscle weakness, nausea, a loss of appetite and Water Retention leading to heart and lung damage.
Minor thiamin deficiencies are known to cause mental conditions such as Depression, irritability, lack of concentration and memory loss. Loss of weight and gastrointestinal upsets are also noted.
Upper safe level for daily supplementation = 100mg
Recommended Daily Allowance = 1.4mg
Thiamin may be taken in supplement form to guard against any possibility of a deficiency.
Factors that increase the need for thiamin are:
Long term oral intakes of up to 3000 mg/day have not caused undesirable side effects in adults.
There are no contra-indications recorded for thiamin.
The main sources of thiamin in the diet are bread and cereal products, potatoes, milk and meat.
1. "Handbook of Dietary Supplements", Pamela Mason, Blackwell Science, 1995.