Thiamine, thiamin or vitamin B1 ( ), named as the “thio-vitamine” (“sulfur-containing vitamin”) is a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex. First named aneurin for the detrimental neurological effects if not present in the diet, it was eventually assigned the generic descriptor name vitamin B1. Its phosphate derivatives are involved in many cellular processes. The best-characterized form is thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), a coenzyme in the catabolism of sugars and amino acids. Thiamine is used in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). In yeast, TPP is also required in the first step of alcoholic fermentation. All living organisms use thiamine, but it is synthesized only in bacteria, fungi, and plants. Animals must obtain it from their diet, and thus, for us, it is an essential nutrient. Insufficient intake in birds produces a characteristic polyneuritis. In mammals, deficiency results in Korsakoff’s syndrome, optic neuropathy, and a disease called beriberi that affects the peripheral nervous system (polyneuritis) and/or the cardiovascular system. Thiamine deficiency has a potentially fatal outcome if it remains untreated. In less severe cases, nonspecific signs include malaise, weight loss, irritability and confusion. The stable and non-hygroscopic salt thiamine mononitrate is the vitamer used for flour and food fortification. Thiamine is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, a list of the most important medication needed in a basic health system.
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