Herbfacts

Vitamin B1

Vitamin name
Vitamin B1
What’s it used for? Healthy nervous system, brain function, energy production, co-factor in many enzyme systems
Best food sources Whole wheat foods, wholegrain foods such as brown rice, legumes, beans and nuts
How much do I need? NRV is 1.1 mg per day*
Need to know Additional B1 may be needed during pregnancy, illness and stressful periods

*A Nutrient Reference Value or NRV is the recommended level set by the UK Department of Health for daily nutrient intake

Vitamin B1

The importance of vitamin B1, was first realised when the deficiency disease beriberi became widespread, causing severe mental confusion. It was then found that wholegrain foods (especially rice) that were naturally rich in vitamin B1 helped prevent the disease.

Vitamin B1 has since been found to support a great many bodily functions, particularly involving enzyme reactions.

Why do I need it?

Vitamin B1 plays a key role in the health of the nervous system, in particular, the signalling mechanism of the brain. It is also needed for energy production, converting carbohydrate into fat and storing for future energy requirements. Vitamin B1 also helps to transport glucose to the brain; glucose is the key brain fuel, a lack of which causes loss of concentration and sharp brain function.

Vitamin B1 is part of the family of B vitamins, and like all the others, it’s water-soluble, meaning it’s easily excreted from the body (although a small amount can be stored in the liver, heart and kidneys). Since the B vitamins all tend to work closely together, a deficiency or excess of one can lead to an imbalance in the others. Vitamin B1 is particularly depleted by alcohol consumption and stress.

Best food sources

Vitamin B1 is found almost exclusively in plant foods with yeast, brown rice, wheat germ products and soy being the best sources. It’s extremely sensitive to alcohol, tannins in black tea and coffee and sulphites, therefore it’s best not eaten in foods at the same time as these drinks, in order to preserve optimal amounts.

Foods high in vitamin B1


Brewer’s yeast – 15.61 mg per 100g

Wheat germ – 2.01 mg per 100g

Soy beans – 1.10 mg per 100g

Brown rice – 1.84 mg per 100g

Oatmeal – 0.60 mg per 100g

Are you getting enough?

Mild deficiency of vitamin B1 can occur since it’s so easily destroyed and very little is stored in the body. Teenagers can often be marginally deficient if their diets are high in sweets, fizzy drinks and refined foods. This can result in irritability, poor concentration, stomach pains and constipation. Beriberi, as mentioned before, is a serious deficiency disease but this is very rare in the UK.

Did you know?

Tea, coffee, nitrites, sulphites, alcohol and the contraceptive pill, plus some other pharmaceutical drugs, can hinder absorption
Vitamin B1 is safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding and additional amounts may be required – consult your healthcare professional for advice
People with high alcohol intake will generally be deficient in vitamin B1

For all the latest research on vitamin B1 click here

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