What Does Vitamin B1 Do to Your Body?

Have you ever wondered what does vitamin B1 do to your body? Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, works in many ways to support the functions of the body. It helps turn the food that we eat into energy that our body needs and is important for the growth and development of our cells. 

Consuming adequate thiamin is important! It helps manage and prevent certain diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. This vitamin is found in many foods such as whole grains, meat, and fish.

Health Functions

Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is a water-soluble vitamin. It acts as a cofactor in macronutrient metabolism. This means that it assists the body’s cells in converting carbohydrates into energy. This energy is used for many functions in the body. These include the different mechanisms of the brain and nervous system. It also plays a role in muscle contraction, thus helping the body with everyday processes.

Disease Risk Reduction

Research shows that thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, has many positive effects on our health status. For example, it may help improve blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes and improve glucose tolerance in this same population. 

People with heart failure also typically have lower thiamin levels, so there’s a possibility of seeing a positive influence when consuming foods high in thiamin. 

Additionally, research demonstrates that thiamin supplementation may help decrease the risk of or progression of Alzheimer’s disease. So, what does vitamin B1 do to your body? It plays a crucial role in maintaining good health.

Groups at Risk

Thiamin deficiency is rare. However, there are still some people at risk of inadequate intake. Typically, these include those who have decreased nutrient intake.It also includes those with increased nutrient losses or impaired nutrient absorption. Some of these groups include those with alcohol dependence and those with HIV/AIDS. Individuals with diabetes and those who have had bariatric surgery may be at risk too. Signs of inadequate thiamin intake include loss of weight and appetite. They may also have memory problems and confusion. Beriberi is another condition from inadequate thiamin. It is characterized by increased heart rate, shortness of breath, or difficulty walking.

Intake Recommendations

Most individuals in the United States obtain adequate thiamin through diet alone. The amount of thiamin that our body needs depends on age and gender.



Birth to 6 months


7-12 months


1-3 years


4-8 years


9-13 years


Teen boys 14-18 years


Teen girls 14-19 years








Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, is found naturally in some foods and is also added to fortified foods. Some of the most common food sources of thiamin include whole dates, grains, meat, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. In the United States and many other countries, breads, cereals, and infant formulas are fortified with thiamin.

Pork is another major source of the vitamin. Some specific foods that are high in thiamin include wheat germ, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, pine nuts, and pistachio nuts. Those who are unable to meet thiamin intakes via food may benefit from supplementation.

What Does Vitamin B1 Do to Your Body?

Thiamin is a very important vitamin. It helps maintain most functions of the body. It is necessary for the growth, development, and function of cells. Most individuals are able to get adequate thiamin levels from the food that they eat. However, some may be at risk of deficiency and therefore require higher levels of thiamin-containing foods or supplementation. We recommend consuming a variety of foods in your diet. This will ensure that you are obtaining adequate levels of all nutrients, thiamin included.

Written by:
Allison Tallman, MS, RDN, CNSC
Registered Dietitian



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