Thiamine or thiamin, sometimes also called aneurin and vitamin B1, is a water-soluble vitamin. It is part of the vitamin B complex and its phosphate derivatives are involved in many cellular processes.
Thiamine is essential to the body to process carbohydrates. Without thiamine, the body cannot convert carbohydrates into energy. Without thiamine, the body cannot process fats into energy for immediate use, which is why many weight loss techniques stress the importance of a good intake of thiamine. Thiamine is also important to the functioning of nerves, muscle cells, and the brain. Thiamine aids in the production of ATP or muscle fuel.
Thiamine cannot be stored in the body, so it needs to be consumed on a daily basis for a person to maintain optimal health. Thiamine is essential to the normal development of the learning capacity. Thiamine is especially important for those who smoke or consume alcohol, as the vitamin acts as an antioxidant, protecting organs against the damaging effects of these and other substances.
Deficiencies are rare, even in underdeveloped countries around the world. When taken as a supplement, thiamine is best consumed together with the other B vitamins, as the body metabolizes them better when ingested at once.
Chronic alcoholism may cause thiamine deficiency and lead to beriberi, a serious disease of the nervous system that causes emotional and physical disturbances and difficulty in walking, and may lead to heart failure. Beriberi was common in the 19th century, but is now rarely seen in people who are not alcoholics.
Presence in Food
Thiamine is found in a wide variety of foods rom spinach to beef typically at low concentrations. Yeast, yeast extract and pork are the most highly concentrated sources of thiamine. Whole grains are the most important dietary sources of thiamine. Processed flours in the United States are enriched with thiamine to replace what was lost during processing.
Also some vegetables rich in thiamine are asparagus, cauliflower, kale, potatoes and oranges. Most types of beans are rich in thiamine and navy and pinto beans have the highest content.
Chemical Structure and Properties
There are two forms of thiamine used: thiamine mononitrate and thiamine hydrochloride.
The chemical formula of thiamine mononitrate is C12H17N4OS+Cl-. The molar mass is 337.27.
Thiamine is a colorless powder. It contains a pyrimidine ring and a thiazole ring linked by a methylene bridge.
Thiamine is soluble in water. It is stable at acidic pH, but is unstable in alkaline solutions. Thiamine is also heat-unstable at higher temperatures, but stays stable during frozen storage. It is also unstable when exposed to ultraviolet light and gamma irradiation.
Thiamine reacts strongly in Maillard-type reactions, causing the creation of flavor components.
Thiamine hydrochloride is a white, crystalline hygroscopic powder. It is used to add a broth-, meat-like flavor to gravies or soups.
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in most countries is set at about 1.4 mg. There are no reports available of adverse effects from consumption of excess thiamine by ingestion of food and supplements. There is also no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) derived for thiamine.
In 2010, the EFSA allowed a health claim for thiamine: “Thiamine contributes to normal carbohydrate and energy-yielding metabolism.” The target population is infants and children up to 18 years. Click here for more information.
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