Causes of Thiamin Deficiency

ID-10020284Most common cause of deficiency of thiamin (vitamin B1) is poor dietary intake of thiamin. The cause of deficiency of thiamin is different in different countries. Depending on the local customs and traditions the cause of thiamin deficiency is different in different geographical areas (different in different regions of a country).

In most of the developed western countries the causes of deficiency of thiamin are alcoholism and chronic illness like cancer. Alcohol directly interferes with the absorption of thiamin and also with formation of thiamin pyrophosphate. Thiamin should always be replenished when re-feeding a patient with alcoholism. Carbohydrate repletion in a patient with alcoholism without adequate thiamine can precipitate acute thiamine deficiency (because the thiamin present will be utilized for metabolism of carbohydrate). Pregnant women with prolonged hyperemesis gravidarum (excess vomiting during pregnancy) and anorexia can also develop thiamin deficiency.  Patients with an overall poor nutritional status (parenteral glucose), and patients on chronic diuretic therapy due to increased urinary thiamine losses are at risk of developing of thiamin deficiency. Maternal thiamine deficiency can lead to infantile deficiency (infantile beriberi) in breastfed children. Thiamine deficiency should also be considered in the setting of motor vehicle accidents associated with head injury.

In areas where rice is staple food there may be thiamin deficiency (thiamin is lost during milling, washing and cooking, as thiamin is a water soluble vitamin). This is the reason for advising people to eat under-milled rice and also eat parboiled rice (parboiling of rice is a process to preserve B-complex group of vitamins in rice, where paddy is heated in a big container at controlled manner and allowing the B-complex vitamins to penetrate to inner side of the rice as the B-complex vitamins are present in the outer aspect of rice, which is lost during milling it).

Thiamin is also lost from fruits during prolonged storage and also during toasting and if baking soda is used during preparing food. So the local custom and tradition of food habit is an important factor in the causation of deficiency of thiamin.


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