What is vitamin B1's (thiamine) function in the body?

Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine
Thiamine, or vitamin B1, was the first B vitamin discovered. Thiamine functions as part of the enzyme thiamine pyrophosphate, or TPP, which is essential for energy production, carbohydrate metabolism, and nerve cell function.
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Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin supports metabolism and regulates the flow of electrolytes in and out of muscle and nerve cells. We need increased thiamin during strenuous exertion, fever, pregnancy, breast-feeding and adolescent growth.

While most Americans get more than enough thiamin, a deficiency of it sometimes occurs in third world countries, among alcoholics and gastric bypass patients. Severe thiamin deficiency causes the disease beriberi, a condition that eventually leads to nerve damage.

Thiamin may help support emotional health and mental acuity. In a Welsh study researchers reported increased cognitive function among 127 young adults who took in 10 times the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). And, in a study at the University of California, Davis, 80 elderly women who ingested seven times the RDA of thiamin experienced improved sleep patterns, increased energy levels and feelings of general well-being.
Elizabeth Casparro, MPH,RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Thiamin, vitamin B1, works in the form of a co-enzyme (enzyme helper) in reactions that produce energy in our bodies. It helps break down glucose (a simple sugar) for energy in 2 steps of metabolism; helps make DNA and RNA and produce energy-rich molecules that power protein synthesis. It is also present in the membranes of nerve cells to aid with neurotransmitter synthesis. This is why once someone develops a deficiency (called Beriberi); it is characterized by peripheral neuropathy (tingling in the extremities). 

Thiamine helps your cells use carbohydrates for fuel. Also known as vitamin B1, thiamine helps cells convert carbohydrates such as sugar and other starches into energy that the cells use for energy. Thiamine promotes the proper functioning and normal growth of the nervous system, muscles and heart.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.