What Are Key Thiamine Benefits?
If you asked me what are key thiamine benefits? I’d have to say that helping you avoid getting beriberi is definitely one!
But before we go into that, let’s back up a bit and get started with this question:
What is thiamine?
You might have heard of thiamine (or thiamin) by its other name: vitamin B1.
Thiamine benefits your body by allowing it to convert food - especially sugar - into energy, acting as a coenzyme in reactions that metabolize glucose, fats and proteins. Without it, the nervous system can’t function and everyday abilities like walking, cognition and speech are impaired.
So thiamine is pretty important! If you eat a lot of simple carbohydrates, you’ll need more thiamine to convert all that sugar.
Wait, wait, wait....What’s a coenzyme?
Coenzymes help enzymes work better, and enzymes speed up chemical reactions in the body.
Essentially, these tiny molecules ‘make stuff happen’ on a microscopic level - whether it’s energy production or copying DNA.
So what happens if you don’t get enough thiamine, or worse, you end up with severe thiamine deficiency?
Severe thiamine deficiency manifests as beriberi, a disease which affects many different parts of the body and can cause everything from difficulty walking and loss of coordination to gastrointestinal upset.
Other conditions associated with a severe lack of thiamine include Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and optic neuropathy.
Like I said, thiamine is pretty important. And that’s why it’s included in Athletic Greens as Thiamine Hydrochloride. There’ll be no beriberi on my watch!
A Bit Of Background On Thiamine
Thiamine was the first B-vitamin (and one of the original water-soluble vitamins) to be discovered in the late 1800s.
A very long fun fact! A surgeon in the Japanese navy, Kanehiro Takaki, was onto it first in 1884 - questioning whether beriberi (a disease we now know is caused by thiamine deficiency) was due to ‘germs’ or poor diet. On long sea voyages where white rice was a staple, he ordered sailors to include barley, meat, milk, bread and vegetables instead - which nearly eliminated beriberi disease. Unfortunately, the navy wasn’t thrilled with the expense, and continued to feed crew spartan rice diets that contributed to deficiency and disease. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that Takaki’s observations were validated by science.
Takaki’s orders to his sailors were spot on. Great food sources of thiamine include whole grains, yeast extract, pork, fish, oysters and beans.
In its isolated form, Thiamine is a water soluble crystalline powder, yellow-white in color with a salty, slightly nutty taste.
Another fun fact: A modern-day popular source of B-vitamins, including thiamine, is Marmite - a thick, black, sticky paste made from a base of leftover brewer’s yeast. There are various similar spreads around the world, like Vegemite and Promite from Australia, and Cenovis from Switzerland. Beriberi was common during World War I, so British troops were issued Marmite in their rations. Similarly, Vegemite was rationed to Australian troops during World War II.
Thiamine Benefits And Features
Besides being absolutely essential for powering our cells (and nervous system, limbs, brain.. the list goes on!) thiamine benefits you by:
✔ Improving blood sugar regulation in diabetics
It’s not clear whether thiamine deficiency is caused by, or predisposes to, diabetes, however, low levels stop the pancreas from doing its job - that is secreting insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar. Thiamine supplementation has been shown to assist with diabetic hyperglycaemia.
✔ Preventing vascular disease in diabetics
High blood sugar puts a huge strain on the cardiovascular system, damaging small, delicate vessels - especially in the eyes, heart and kidneys - and increasing the chance of heart attack, stroke and other complications. Thiamine has shown promise in preventing these consequences of diabetes.
✔ Reducing blood pressure
Taking thiamine may reduce blood pressure in people with high blood sugar.
✔ Reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease
Low thiamine levels are associated with cognitive dysfunction, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. A deficiency may promote the formation of amyloid plaques - as in Alzheimer’s. More evidence is required to prove the benefits of thiamine supplementation for brain function.
✔ Preventing eye problems and cataracts
Higher intake of thiamine is associated with better eye health as we age.
How To Get The Full Range Of Thiamine Benefits
To treat deficiency, thiamine supplements are usually taken in much larger doses than the recommended 1 - 1.2 mg per day. In fact, doses of 100 - 300 mg are regularly prescribed to treat overt deficiency, and no toxic level has so far been established.
Alcoholism and diabetes - which typically cause high blood sugar - increase the need for thiamine.
However, it should be noted that a high intake of thiamine - without the healthy complement of B-group vitamins - may deplete the body of magnesium and vitamin B6.
For this reason, thiamine is most popularly taken in the form of a B Complex or Multivitamin product for energy and general wellbeing. It is not very commonly sold in isolation.
Call me biased, but a great way to get your full thiamine benefits and know that you’re getting the right B-group vitamins too, is to enjoy your daily dose of Athletic Greens.
We’ve included thiamine because we know most people don’t consume enough B Vitamins. Further, as a water soluble vitamin, it can be taken in high doses with minimal risk.
In Athletic Greens thiamine has a lot of friends, working well with:
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Chromium Picolinate to maintain healthy blood sugar levels
Grape Seed Extract to treat vascular disease and keep blood vessels in good repair
CoQ10 and Hawthorn to maintain healthy blood pressure levels
Gotu Kola to treat and prevent dementia and Alzheimer's
Bilberry for eye health
So there it is - thiamine is essential for proper metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins - fuelling enzymatic reactions and supplying the body with energy.
Without it, the nervous system can’t function and diseases of deficiency occur. Thiamine has been proven particularly useful for diabetics and alcoholics - and shows potential for preserving the ageing brain.
All pretty great reasons to make sure thiamine benefits you every day!