vitamin B1 deficiency

Last reviewed 01/2018

Thiamine, in its active form as thiamine pyrophosphate, acts as a co-factor for three enzymes involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates:

  • pyruvate dehydrogenase, in glycolysis
  • alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, in the citric acid cycle
  • transketolase, in the pentose phosphate pathway

Consequently, deficiency tends to affect organs dependent on carboyhdrates e.g. the CNS, liver, heart and skeletal muscle.

Body stores of thiamine are small, so a deficiency state appears rapidly if dietary intake is inadequate.

Thiamine is ubiquitous, hence deficiency is only encountered in the following circumstances:

  • in countries where the only food is polished rice; this is called beri-beri
  • amongst alcoholics who eat almost nothing
  • in a starved patient, for example with carcinoma of the stomach