Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is used by nearly all your cells, metabolizing the carbohydrates and lipids in the foods you eat, helping to convert food into energy and boosting the flow of electrolytes in and out of your nerves and muscles.
Thiamine is important for healthy immune function. While thiamine deficiency is often the result of alcohol misuse, chronic infections, poor nutrition and/or malabsorption, recent research suggests vitamin B1 has dramatically declined throughout the food chain in recent years.
The transfer of thiamine up the food chain may be blocked by a number of factors, including the overabundance of thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys thiamine. Thiaminase is naturally present in certain microorganisms, plants and fish that have adapted to use it to their advantage. Thiamine deficiency has been identified in dozens of animal species and is now suspected of driving declines in wildlife populations across the northern hemisphere. This means our diets are likely to be low in thiamine, thereby raising the risk for thiamine deficiency in the human population.
You can select a high-quality food-based supplement containing a broad spectrum of B vitamins to avoid creating an imbalance. The following guidelines will also help protect or improve your thiamine status:
- Limit your sugar and refined grain intake
- Eat fermented foods
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Avoid sulfite-rich foods and beverages such as nonorganic processed meats, wine and lager, as sulfites have antithiamine effects.
- Correct any suspected magnesium insufficiency or deficiency, as magnesium is required as a cofactor in the conversion of thiamine.