11 signs and symptoms of thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, is one of eight important B vitamins, and has many important functions throughout the body. It is used by almost all of your cells and is responsible for helping to convert food into energy. Since the human body cannot produce thiamine, it must be obtained from various foods rich in this vitamin, such as meat, nuts and whole grains.
Thiamine deficiency is rather unusual in developed countries. However, the following factors may increase your risk:
- Alcohol addiction
- Old age
- Bariatric surgery
- Use of diuretics in high doses
Many people do not understand that they have a thiamine deficiency, as many of the symptoms are mild and often overlooked. Here are 11 signs and symptoms of thiamine deficiency.
1. Loss of appetite
One of the common early symptoms of thiamine deficiency is loss of appetite or anorexia. Scientists believe that thiamine plays an important role in regulating satiety. It helps control the “saturation center” located in the hypothalamus in the brain. When a deficiency occurs, the normal action of the “saturation center” changes, causing the body to feel full or full, even if this may not be the case. This can lead to a lack of appetite. One 16-day study in rats whose diet consisted of foods with a low thiamine content showed that they consumed significantly less food. After 22 days, the rats showed a decrease in food intake by 69-74%. Another study in rats that were given foods low in thiamine also showed a significant reduction in food intake. In both studies, food intake increased rapidly to baseline after administration of thiamine in the diet of rats.
Fatigue may occur gradually or suddenly. It can range from a small decrease in energy to extreme exhaustion, probably depending on the severity of thiamine deficiency. Since fatigue is a very vague symptom with many possible causes, it can usually be overlooked, thereby unaware of the lack of this nutrient. However, given the vital role of thiamine in the conversion of food into energy, it is not surprising that fatigue and lack of energy are a common symptom of its deficiency. In fact, many studies and cases have associated fatigue with a lack of thiamine.
Irritability is a feeling of agitation and frustration. When you are irritable, you often quickly get upset. Irritability can be caused by various physical, psychological and medical conditions. One of the first symptoms of thiamine deficiency is irritable mood. It may occur within a few days or weeks after a deficit occurs. Irritability has been particularly documented in cases involving babies with beriberi (vitamin deficiency B1), a disease caused by a lack of thiamine.
4. Deterioration of reflexes
Thiamine deficiency can affect motor nerves. If left untreated, damage to your nervous system caused by a thiamine deficiency can cause changes in your reflexes. Often there are diminished or absent reflexes of the knee, ankle and triceps, and as the deficit develops, this may affect your coordination and ability to walk. This symptom is often documented with undiagnosed thiamine deficiency in children.
5. Feeling tingling in hands and feet
Abnormal tingling and burning in the upper and lower extremities is a symptom known as paresthesia. The peripheral nerves that reach your arms and legs are strongly dependent on the action of thiamine. In case of deficiency, damage to the peripheral nerve and paresthesia may occur. In fact, patients experienced paresthesia during the initial stages of thiamine deficiency. In addition, studies in rats have shown that thiamine deficiency causes damage to peripheral nerves.
6. Muscle weakness
Muscle weakness is not uncommon, and it is often difficult to determine. Short-term, temporary muscle weakness occurs in almost all people at some point. However, persistent, long-term muscle weakness for no apparent reason may be a sign of a lack of thiamine. In several cases, muscle weakness was observed in patients with thiamine deficiency. In addition, in these cases, muscle weakness significantly decreased after taking thiamine supplements.
7. Fuzzy vision
Thiamine deficiency can be one of many causes of blurred vision. Severe thiamine deficiency can cause swelling of the optic nerve, causing optic neuropathy. This can lead to blurring or even loss of vision. Several documented cases have associated blurred vision and loss of vision with severe thiamine deficiency. In addition, patients significantly improved their vision after starting thiamine supplementation.
8. Nausea and vomiting
Although gastrointestinal symptoms are less common with thiamine deficiency, they can still occur. It is not entirely clear why, due to the lack of thiamine, symptoms associated with the digestive tract may occur, but documented cases of gastrointestinal symptoms were eliminated after taking thiamine supplements. Vomiting may be more common in children with deficiency, since it was recognized as a common symptom in infants who consumed soy-based baby food, which contained very little of this vitamin.
9. Change in heart rate
Your heart rate is an indicator of how many times your heart beats per minute. An interesting fact is that your heart rate may be affected by your thiamine level. Thiamine deficiency can lead to a slower than normal heartbeat. A decrease in heart rate was recorded in studies on rats with thiamine deficiency. An abnormally slow heart rate resulting from a lack of thiamine can cause increased fatigue, dizziness, and an increased risk of fainting.
Given that thiamine deficiency can affect the function of the heart, shortness of breath may occur, especially during physical exertion. This is because the lack of thiamine can sometimes lead to heart failure, which occurs when the heart becomes less effective when pumping blood. This can eventually lead to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, making breathing difficult. It is important to note that dyspnea can have many causes, so this symptom itself is not usually a symptom of thiamine deficiency.
Several studies have linked thiamine deficiency and delirium (delirium, impaired consciousness). Delirium is a serious condition that leads to confusion, reduced awareness and the inability to think clearly. In severe cases, thiamine deficiency can cause Wernicke-Korsakov syndrome, which includes two types of closely related brain damage. Its symptoms often include: delirium, memory loss, confusion and hallucinations. Wernicke-Korsakov syndrome is often associated with thiamine deficiency caused by alcohol abuse. However, a shortage of thiamine also occurs in older patients and may contribute to the onset of delirium.