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Vitamin B1 (thiamine) for the heart and nerves?

What is behind the advertising for thiamine (vitamin B1) products?

Vitamin B1 is often advertised as the mood, nerve or "good mood" vitamin. In fact, thiamine is a vital vitamin that the body depends on. Because: Thiamine does not only play in the Nervous system an important role, but is also on Energy metabolism and the Heart health involved.

According to the regulation for health-related claims (HCVO), the following statements are permitted for thiamine (vitamin B1):

  • Thiamine contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism
  • Thiamine contributes to normal psychological function
  • Thiamine contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system
  • Thiamine contributes to normal heart function

These scientifically proven statements can be used to advertise food supplements that contain at least 0.17 mg thiamine per daily dose (15% of the reference value). However, it is important to pay attention to the exact wording: It is only about maintaining normal body functions and not about an additional increase in performance.

Again and again you can find information on the Internet that thiamine or the related benfotiamine should relieve nerve pain (neuropathic pain). In fact, according to the German Society for Neurology (DGN), vitamin B1 helps just as little as vitamin E.

What should I look out for when using thiamine (vitamin B1)?

There are no known adverse health effects from a high intake of vitamin B1 from dietary supplements. Excess thiamine is excreted in the urine. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has therefore decided not to set a maximum amount for thiamine in food supplements.

These vitamin compounds are in accordance with EU guidelines 2002/46 / EG, Annex II (version of 05.07.2017) for thiamine in Germany and other EU countries in food supplements authorized:

  • Thiamine hydrochloride
  • Thiamine mononitrate
  • Thiamine monophosphate chloride
  • Thiamine pyrophosphate chloride

Products with benfotiamine can also be found on the Internet. However, benfotiamine is a vitamin B1 compound that is only approved in medicinal products.

What does the body need thiamine (vitamin B1) for?

Thiamine has many functions in the body. It is of crucial importance in the production of energy from carbohydrates and proteins. As a phosphate donor, it is also involved in the transmission of stimuli and thus plays an important role in the nervous system.

A permanent thiamine deficiency leads to the well-known Beri-Beri disease. This still occurs today in countries where people eat one-sidedly and white rice is the staple food. Because the vitamin is in the outer layer of grain and rice grains and is therefore lost when the rice is peeled. The symptoms of deficiency can mainly be classified into the categories “damage to the cardiovascular system” and “disorders of the nervous system”. You express yourself z. B. in muscle weakness, numbness in arms and legs, heart weakness up to heart failure.

In Europe, however, beri-beri does not play a role. However, there are risk groups in Germany. These include: chronic alcoholics, people with certain gastrointestinal or liver diseases, and women with extreme pregnancy sickness. Furthermore, breast-fed children whose mothers suffer from a thiamine deficiency (e.g. due to vomiting during pregnancy) are at risk.

Can I cover my daily requirement with food?

On average, men and women are above the recommended daily intake for vitamin B1. A third of the female population does not achieve this, but that does not mean that there is a deficiency. The daily intake recommendations take into account the different metabolic conditions of people and the different consumption habits, e.g. very high in carbohydrates (requires more vitamin B1) with a safety margin of 20%. Only by means of meaningful diagnostic methods such as the thiamine diphosphate concentration in the red blood cells or the thiamine excretion in the urine could the statement be made that the German population is generally adequately supplied with vitamin B1.

The amount of the recommended daily intake for thiamine is based on the daily energy (calorie) consumption. Since men are usually taller and have more muscles, the vitamin B1 recommendation of 1.2 mg thiamine / day is higher than for women with 1.0 mg thiamine / day. Older people (from 65 years of age) have a slightly lower requirement (men 1.1 mg, women 1.0 mg), younger (15-19 years) need more due to their active everyday life and their high metabolic performance as they grow (boys 1.4 mg / girl 1.1 mg).

The storage capacity in the human body, especially in the blood, liver, kidneys, brain and muscles, is to be regarded as low for thiamine at 25-30 mg. The biological half-life is also very short at 9 to 18 days. Regular intake is therefore necessary.

Thiamine is found in all plant and animal foods. A varied diet ensures an adequate supply of thiamine. Lean meat (especially pork) is particularly rich in thiamine. Since there are far more nutrients in whole grain cereals (especially oat flakes) and brown rice - including vitamin B1 - than in lighter types of flour / rice, these are to be preferred. Legumes (peas), sunflower seeds, peanuts, tuna, plaice, potatoes and much more are also rich in thiamine.

Vitamin B1 is sensitive to heat, UV rays and oxygen. Since it is also one of the water-soluble substances, about 30% thiamine losses occur when cooking food. The content in food can therefore be influenced by storage and preparation.

Our tip:
A balanced diet usually provides us with sufficient thiamine (vitamin B1).

Since vitamins and minerals are in the outer layers of the grain, pay attention to the term "whole grain" when shopping for grain and grain products. Don't be fooled by terms like “black bread” or “grain bread”.

Whole grain rice can be recognized by the term "brown rice". So-called "parboiled rice" is also a good alternative to brown rice. This was steam-treated before peeling, whereby some of the vitamins and minerals are pressed into the inside of the rice grain and are therefore still contained in the rice grain after peeling.



BfR (2021): Updated maximum quantity proposals for vitamins and minerals in food supplements and fortified foods
Opinion No. 009/2021 of March 15, 2021

BfR (2021): Maximum amount proposals for vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and pantothenic acid in foods including dietary supplements

German Nutrition Society, Austrian Nutrition Society, Swiss Nutrition Society (2020), reference values ​​for nutrient intake, 2nd edition, 6th edition 2020, Köllen Druck + Verlag GmbH: Bonn

Max Rubner Institute (2008): National Consumption Study II. Results Report, Part 2, accessed on: October 22, 2020

German Society for Neurology (DGN): Vitamin preparations for neuropathies without benefit. Press release from May 23, 2018, accessed on: October 22, 2020

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