Thiamin: Water-Soluble Vitamin Deficiency & Toxicity Symptoms Video

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  • 0:02 Thiamin
  • 0:48 Beriberi
  • 1:58 Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
  • 3:35 Toxicity
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Thiamin (B1) is a water-soluble vitamin that is easily flushed out of the body. If the level of thiamin in the body is too low, it will result in a deficiency disease, such as beriberi or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. There's no toxic level of thiamin.

Thiamin

When rice is picked from the field, it has a brown appearance. This is because the rice kernel is naturally covered by a bran layer. This brown rice can be eaten as is, or the rice kernels can be sent to the mill where the bran layer is removed, turning the brown rice into white rice. This processing helps prevent spoilage and makes the rice a bit easier to chew, but it also strips the rice of important vitamins and nutrients.

One of the vitamins that gets stripped away is thiamin, also known as B1, which is a B-complex vitamin needed for proper nerve function and glucose metabolism. In this lesson, we will learn more about thiamin and what happens to your body if you get too little or too much of this important vitamin.

Beriberi

Thiamin (B1) deficiency is when you get too little B1. This can result in a disorder called beriberi, which is a condition characterized by weakness and neurological symptoms. Heart changes may also be seen depending on the type of beriberi present. Beriberi means 'I cannot,' which refers to the extreme weakness that comes with this condition. To help you recall this term you might want to think of beriberi as the disorder that makes you so weak you can 'barely, barely' walk.

This weakness comes about because a thiamin (B1) deficiency makes it hard to break down glucose for energy. Since glucose is the primary energy source for your nerve cells and your brain, you end up feeling worn out, both physically and mentally. Additional neurological symptoms, ranging from tingling sensations in the hands and feet to paralysis, may be due to the fact that thiamin is needed to make neurotransmitters, which are chemical substances that relay a message from a nerve cell to another cell. In beriberi, the lack of thiamin means the message does not go through.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

People living in the United States do not typically suffer from beriberi, even if they consume a lot of refined grains. This is because grains eaten in developed countries like the U.S. tend to be enriched, which means vitamins, such as thiamin, are added back after the grain is processed. Food sources for thiamin, in addition to enriched grains, include pork, seeds and legumes, which are things like beans, lentils and peas.

Yet, thiamin deficiency is still seen in populations of the world that consume processed grains that are not enriched and where other thiamin-rich foods are unavailable. We also want to remember that thiamin, like other B-complex vitamins, is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it dissolves in the watery environment of the body and is easily flushed out of the body. Because of this, thiamin needs to be replenished regularly for good health.

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