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Beriberi was discovered in the seventeenth century in Java by the Dutch physician Jacobius Bonitus. The name means "sheep" in the local language; this describes the characteristic gait of patients.

Today, beriberi is confined to the poorest parts of Asia where little else is eaten except polished rice.

Prevention of beriberi requires:

  • a more varied diet, including legumes and pulses
  • thiamine supplementation of rice

There are three forms of beriberi:

  • dry beriberi
  • wet beriberi
  • infantile beriberi

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