A) ESSENTIAL COENZYME
Vitamin B1 – Thiamine is an essential coenzyme (non-protein portion of an enzyme) of the enzyme thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP), which is required for the production of energy, metabolism of carbohydrates and proper nerve function. A severe deficiency in B1 leads to beriberi (manifested in symptoms such as confusion, oedema, emaciation, muscle atrophy, cardiovascular dysfunction (e.g. hypertension) and walking difficulties), while other signs and symptoms are associated with less severe deficiencies (see below). Other than lack of intake, B1 deficiency can be caused or severely worsened by alcohol abuse or excessive carbohydrate intake.
B) NERVE FUNCTION
Vitamin B1 is needed for the synthesis, and possibly the release, of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (a chemical messenger required for memory and proper mental function, as well as nerve and muscle function). This association with acetylcholine may explain many of the mental and neuromuscular symptoms caused by B1 deficiency. Supplementing B1 is not only valuable in preventing impairment of mental and nervous dysfunction, but also has shown therapeutic effectiveness in certain disorders linked to acetylcholine abnormalities.
C) MEMORY/MENTAL ENHANCEMENT
As mentioned, the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (which is dependent on Bl) is required for proper mental function and memory. In outpatient studies, Bl deficiency was cited in 33-57% of geriatric individuals, and significant depletion of brain acetylcholine is a common feature of certain mental/cognitive disorders. In such cases, supplementation with Bl may significantly enhance mental performance. For example, more than one study has found Bl supplementation (in a range between 3 and 8 grams per day) to be effective in improving cognitive function in those with senility and Alzheimer’s Disease.
D) LIVER PROTECTION
Vitamin Bl is required (along with the amino acid 1-cysteine and vitamin C) to metabolise alcohol and to neutralise the liver toxin produced by alcohol metabolism called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde toxicity can damage liver tissue and causes certain alcohol-related side effects linked with hangovers.
• Age-related memory loss
• Alzheimer’s Disease
• Alcohol-related side effects and alcoholism
• Multiple sclerosis
• Stress (as a component of B-complex supplementation)