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Vitamin B1 (thiamine): foods, benefits & RDA

Siski Green / 26 January 2022

Vitamin B1 is essential for energy and can be found in whole grains, seafood and beans.

Grilled prawns on a barbecue
Seafood is a good source of vitamin B1

Vitamin B1, or thiamine as it’s also called, is water-soluble and helps the body process food into energy, among other things.

What is vitamin B1 used for and does it really work?

Your body can’t function without vitamin B1. It’s needed to transport energy between cells, and a lack of the vitamin B1 can negatively impact your heart, nervous system and brain health too.

While most people get enough B1 in their diet, it is possibly to be deficient because of specific medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, anorexia and alcoholism, as well as those undergoing treatments such as kidney dialysis. Vitamin B1 deficiency leads to serious health problems, affecting heart function, breathing, and mental alertness, and visual and brain function impairment. It can, however, be treated with supplements or injections.

Certain lifestyle choices can also reduce the amount of vitamin B1 in your body – drinking excessive amounts of tea or coffee, for example.

What’s the best way to take vitamin B1?

While most people will get enough via their diet, some individuals may need to take supplements or get injections.

You can get your RDA (0.8mg for women, 1mg for men) of vitamin B1 by eating beans and lentils, peas and nuts, pork, poultry, seafood, bread and yeast products. Pasta and cereal, as well as bread products, are often fortified with thiamine too – check the label.

Where can I get vitamin B1?

Aside from foods and fortiifed food products, you can get vitamin B1 in supplement form from supermarkets, health shops or online. Most multivitamins contain vitamin B1, along with other B vitamins.

What are the side effects or contraindications of taking vitamin B1?

Certain processes and treatments can flush your body of vitamin B1, such as kidney dialysis, for example, so it’s important to keep a check on levels if that’s the case. Intake of vitamin B1 may also impact levels of vitamin B3 in alcoholics so if you are in any doubt see your GP before taking supplements.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.