Nutritional Brain Bomb: Thiamine

Nutritional Brain Bomb: Thiamine Deficiency | Psychology Today

One of the more dangerous deficiencies to our brains (and one found not uncommonly in alcoholics) is thiamine deficiency

vitamin B1 is a cofactor to a zillion energetic reactions. If you burn glucose, you desperately need your thiamine.

Like most vitamins, thiamine is taken up into the body and then immediately modified into a number of derivatives. The most famous is thiamine diphosphate (also known as TPP)—this thiamine is the one that plays a part in a bunch of energetic reactions in glucose metabolism.

Thiamine, with its key role in central nervous system energy production, can give us clues as to the pathology of syndromes such as Alzheimer’sDementia.

This piqued my interest enough to see what mainstream medical organizations, like the Mayo Clinic, had to say about it.  It turns out that scientific research points to many significant benefits from this vitamin and it’s not just a “health fad”.

Thiamine (Vitamin B1): Evidence –

Taking thiamine by mouth helps to temporarily correct some complications of metabolic disorders associated with genetic diseases, including subacute necrotizing encephalopathy (SNE, Leigh’s disease), maple syrup urine disease (branched-chain aminoacidopathy), and lactic acidosis associated with pyruvate carboxylase deficiency and hyperalaninemia. Long-term management should be under strict medical supervision.


Patients with chronic alcoholism or those experiencing alcohol withdrawal are at risk of thiamine deficiency and its associated complications and should be administered thiamine.

Alzheimer’s disease

Because thiamine deficiency can result in a form of dementia (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome), its relationship to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia has been investigated.

Anemia (thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anemia syndrome)

Thiamine-responsive megablastic anemia (TRMA) is a genetic disorder affecting thiamine transport in the body or the conversion of thiamine into its active form.

Athletic performance

Active individuals who reduce intake of food might be at greater risk of vitamin deficiency, including thiamine deficiency

Cataract prevention

Preliminary evidence suggests that high dietary thiamine intake may be associated with a decreased risk of cataracts.

Crohn’s disease

Decreased serum thiamine levels have been reported in patients with Crohn’s disease.

Diabetic complications

Thiamine may prevent diabetic complications, including complications of the nervous system, eyes, blood vessels, and kidneys. Other diabetic complications that may benefit from thiamine supplementation include increased urination, high levels of glucose in the urine, and high blood cholesterol levels.


Based on preliminary evidence, thiamine may be effective for dysmenorrhea


Preliminary research suggests that thiamine may improve attention and motor function in patients with epilepsy.

Heart failure (cardiomyopathy)

Chronic severe thiamine deficiency can cause heart failure (wet beriberi), a condition that merits thiamine supplementation. It is not clear that thiamine supplementation is beneficial in patients with heart failure due to other causes. However, it is reasonable for patients with heart failure to take a daily multivitamin including thiamine, because some of these individuals may be thiamine deficient. Diuretics may lower thiamine levels. Since diuretics are commonly administered to patients with heart failure, patients taking diuretics are at an increased risk of thiamine deficiency.

Mitochondrial disorders

Mitochondrial disorders are genetic defects in mitochondrial energy production and can lead to various types of diseases. There is some evidence to suggest that thiamine may be used as part of a treatment regimen for these disorders.

Rheumatic diseases

Preliminary evidence suggests that B vitamins might aid in pain reduction

Subclinical thiamin deficiency in the elderly

While typically asymptomatic, the elderly have been found to have lower thiamine concentrations than younger people. There is limited evidence that thiamine supplementation may be beneficial in individuals with persistently low thiamine blood levels.

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

A combination of indomethacin and thiamine were found to be less effective than classical acupuncture for temporomandibular disorders.

1 thought on “Nutritional Brain Bomb: Thiamine

  1. Pingback: Thiamine for Fibromyalgia (and ME/CFS)? | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

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