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Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Supplements Australia

What is Vitamin B1?

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine or thiamin, is one of eight B vitamins. It is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a critical role in energy production and nerve function.

Thiamine acts as a coenzyme in the metabolism of carbohydrates and branched-chain amino acids. It helps convert nutrients into energy and is essential for a properly functioning nervous system.

Understanding Vitamin B1 -Thiamine

What is Thiamine?

Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is an essential micronutrient that all living organisms require in small amounts. Chemically, thiamine is known as thiamin or thiamine hydrochloride. It's an odorless, colorless organic compound with a chemical formula C12H17N4OS.

Thiamine was the first B vitamin discovered by researchers. It was isolated in 1926 and synthesized in 1936.

Functions of Thiamine

Thiamine plays a vital role in:

  • Carbohydrate metabolism - It converts carbohydrates into glucose, which is used to produce energy. Thiamine is needed for the metabolism of simple sugars (glucose) as well as complex carbohydrates (starch).
  • Production of ATP - Thiamine assists in ATP synthesis. ATP is the energy currency of cells and must be continuously produced to meet the body's energy needs.
  • Nerve and muscle functioning - Thiamine helps maintain proper nerve conduction and muscle contractions. It supports the normal functioning of the nervous system and skeletal and cardiac muscles.
  • Brain health - Thiamine aids in brain cell metabolism and can help prevent brain disorders. It helps with brain processes involved in cognition, like focus, memory, learning and mood.
  • Fatty acid synthesis - Thiamine is required for the formation of fatty acids. Fatty acids are essential for building cell membranes and nerve insulation.
  • Production of nucleic acids - Thiamine assists in the production of DNA and RNA. This is vital for cell growth, division and genetic expression.

Importance of Thiamine

Vitamin B1 - Thiamine Deficiency

Thiamine deficiency means the body does not have enough vitamin B1 to carry out its critical functions. Even mild deficiency can lead to serious complications over time if untreated.

Thiamine deficiency is common in those with poor nutritional intake, such as alcoholics, people with eating disorders, those undergoing renal dialysis, older adults, etc. Deficiency can also occur if the demand for thiamine is more than the dietary intake.

Certain medications, digestive disorders, chronic illnesses and bariatric surgery can also increase the risk of thiamine deficiency by affecting absorption or utilisation of B1 by the body.

Effects of Thiamine Deficiency

Thiamine deficiency can negatively impact both physical and neurological functioning. Some consequences include:

  • Fatigue, weakness and weight loss due to impaired glucose metabolism and energy production
  • Nerve damage that can cause numbness, pain and muscle weakness affecting coordination
  • Cognitive deficits including confusion, memory loss and mood disorders
  • Congestive heart failure and enlarged heart
  • Eye conditions including eye movements disorders and vision loss
  • Increased risk of infection due to weakened immune system
  • Hearing problems and ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

Without treatment, thiamine deficiency can be life-threatening. That's why prompt diagnosis and B1 supplementation is critical.

Common Thiamine Deficiency Symptoms


Beriberi refers to neurological and cardiovascular symptoms caused by thiamine deficiency. It can be categorised as:

  • Dry beriberi - Nerve damage and muscle weakness. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, loss of sensation, paralysis, and muscle wasting.
  • Wet beriberi - Buildup of fluid that leads to swelling, enlarged heart, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Symptoms include shortness of breath, leg swelling, and rapid heart rate.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff psychosis involve brain damage due to thiamine deficiency. It mainly affects memory and cognitive function.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy symptoms are confusion, inability to coordinate movement (ataxia), and abnormal eye movements. Korsakoff psychosis involves amnesia, loss of short-term memory, and confabulation.

Meeting Thiamine Requirements

Vitamin B1 Supplementation

Taking a vitamin B1 or thiamine supplement can help increase levels in those at risk of deficiency. Supplements are available as tablets, capsules, liquids and injectable formulations.

Always consult a doctor before taking B1 supplements. People with health conditions or taking medication may need tailored thiamine dosage and monitoring.

The recommended dietary intake (RDI) for thiamine is:

  • Infants 0-6 months - 0.2 mg/day
  • Infants 7-12 months - 0.3 mg/day
  • Children 1-3 years - 0.5 mg/day
  • Children 4-8 years - 0.6 mg/day
  • Boys 9-13 years - 0.9 mg/day
  • Boys 14-18 years - 1.2 mg/day
  • Girls 9-13 years - 0.9 mg/day
  • Girls 14-18 years - 1.1 mg/day
  • Men 19-70+ years - 1.2 mg/day
  • Women 19-70+ years - 1.1 mg/day
  • Pregnant women 14-50 years - 1.4 mg/day
  • Breastfeeding women 14-50 years - 1.5 mg/day

Typical B1 supplement doses for treating deficiency are:

  • Mild deficiency - 10-25 mg/day
  • Severe deficiency - 100-300 mg/day initial treatment, followed by reduced maintenance dose

Higher doses should be monitored by a doctor.

Taking Thiamine in Specific Situations

Thiamine Supplements During Pregnancy

Thiamine requirements increase during pregnancy. The RDI is 1.4 mg/day for pregnant women. Taking a supplement with 2-4 mg thiamine daily in addition to a healthy diet can help meet increased needs.

Thiamine Supplements While Breastfeeding

The RDI for breastfeeding women is 1.5 mg/day. Taking a B1 supplement with 2-4 mg daily, along with thiamine-rich foods, helps provide adequate amounts for infant development.

Always consult a doctor before taking supplements while pregnant or breastfeeding.


What are the symptoms of mild thiamine deficiency?

Early symptoms may include appetite loss, nausea, fatigue, abdominal discomfort, rapid heartbeat, and irritability. Signs can gradually develop over time if untreated.

Who is more at risk of thiamine deficiency?

People with alcohol dependence, HIV/AIDS, anorexia, malnutrition, bariatric surgery, digestive disorders, elderly adults and dialysis patients are more vulnerable.

How does thiamine help with energy levels?

Thiamine helps convert carbohydrates into usable cellular energy. It also assists in ATP production. B1 deficiency can lead to fatigue and weakness.

Are there any risks with taking B1 supplements?

Thiamine is considered very safe at recommended intakes. Minor side effects are rare but may include nausea, itching or headaches in sensitive individuals.

How long do the effects of thiamine supplementation last?

For treating deficiency, B1 supplementation needs to be continued long-term along with dietary improvements to replenish body stores. Ongoing smaller doses are required after initial therapy.


  1. Thiamin. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.
  2. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand (2006).
  3. Thiamine deficiency and its prevention and control in major emergencies. WHO.
  4. Thiamine. Oregon State University.
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