Vitamin B1 - Amazing Benefits of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) For Kids

Posted on June 04 2021, By: Dr. Aqsa Ph.D. Scholar in Nutrigenomics

Vitamin B1 - Amazing Benefits of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) For Kids

1. Introduction

2. What Are the Functions of Thiamine in Your Child’s Body?

3. Why do Children need Thiamine?

3.1 Supports immune functions

3.2 Improves brain health

3.3 Maintains cardiovascular health

3.4 Prevents cataracts

3.5 Improves digestive functions

3.6 Regulates sugar metabolism

4. What is Thiamine Deficiency?

4.1 Loss of appetite

4.2 Fatigue

4.3 Irritability

4.4 Reduced reflexes

4.5 Muscle weakness

4.6 Severe deficiency syndrome

5. How Much Thiamine Does Your Kid Need per Day?

6. Should you Give Your Child Vitamin B1 Supplements?

7. What Foods Contain Vitamin B1?

8. Risks and Side Effects of Thiamine

9. Summary




Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, belongs to the group of B-complex vitamins. It carries the number one because it is the first B vitamin discovered by scientists. A common question of this vitamin is, "Can I take vitamin B1 everyday?" Yes! Similar to other B vitamins, it is water-soluble which means that it is not stored in the body and any excess will exit the body through urine. This makes it especially important to incorporate B1 in your family’s diet every day. 

Thiamine is a sulfur containing compound that first dissolves in the blood before being transported throughout your body. Your body does not produce thiamine on its own, so this vitamin should be taken through diet or supplements.

Vitamin B1 is present in many foods, including meat, nuts, grains, and beans. It is important to know that this vitamin is highly sensitive to heat, so overcooked, frozen, and processed foods do not typically contain thiamine. Vitamin B1 is primarily used in combination with other B vitamins to make B-complex products to supplement your diet. These products might include some or all of the following essential B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, and B9. (1)(2)

What does vitamin B1 do? The thiamine main function is to help in energy production by metabolizing glucose in the human body. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contraction. Therefore, thiamine is an essential component of your children’s diet because it boosts their energy levels, contributing to important functions in the body, and it prevents fatigue and weakness. (3)

What Are the Functions of Thiamine in Your Child’s Body?

Thiamine is absorbed in the small intestine through both active and passive transport. The vitamin is then converted in the jejunum into thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), a key form of thiamine coenzyme. After it is absorbed in your circulatory system, vitamin B1 freely circulates your red blood cells and plasma without the help of carrier molecules. In comparison to other nutrients, your body stores less thiamine because excess amounts are excreted from your body through urine. (1)

What does thiamine do in the body? Thiamine is known as a ‘morale vitamin’ because it plays an essential role in maintaining cardiac and neural functions. It also contributes to the health of body tissues, conduction of nerve signals, and muscle contraction. Vitamin B1 is essential in helping your child’s body break down food into simple compounds, such as carbohydrates into simple sugars. It facilitates the metabolism of fats, proteins, and glucose in the body to yield energy. Additionally, your child’s body requires vitamin B1 to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that supplies energy to the body's cells. (4)

Why do Children need Thiamine?

Thiamine has several essential functions in your body and provides numerous health benefits. Your child needs an adequate supply of thiamine for proper development and functioning of the body. So, how does thiamine help your body? This vitamin not only supports the physical health of your kid but maintains mental health as well. Some significant health benefits of thiamine are listed below:

  • Supports immune functions
  • Improves brain health
  • Maintains cardiovascular health
  • Prevents cataracts
  • Improves digestive functions
  • Regulates sugar metabolism

Supports immune functions:  Thiamine is also known as an anti-stress hormone, and it is a key nutrient in maintaining a healthy immune system for you and your children. Studies found that thiamine enhances the phagocytic activity of the body’s leukocytes (in other words, the protection of your white blood cells), production of antibodies, and antibacterial activity of the blood-serum. Vitamin B1 also increases the activity of lysozymes in the body, an antibacterial agent normally found in excreted tears, saliva, urine and milk. One study found that the administration of vitamin B1 blockers reduces immune functions in rats, indicating again that the presence of vitamin B1 is essential for immune functions. (2)

Improves brain health:  Thiamine is vital in developing a myelin sheath, a coating around the neurons that protects them from death and damage. In your child’s brain, thiamine is required by both nerve cells and supporting cells. Scientific evidence has proven that proper intake of thiamine can protect humans from several neurodegenerative disorders, including ataxia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. It is recommended that you check in with your doctor to learn what vitamins are good for brain health as well as supplements that support brain health. We will also share foods to support brain health below!

One study depicted that pyruvate dehydrogenase dysfunction and inadequate thiamine levels were strongly associated with the development of ataxia (a condition that causes loss of movement). On the other hand, long-term thiamine supplementation showed improvement in ataxia patients. Another study by autopsy revealed reduced activity of thiamine-dependent enzymes in the brain of Alzheimer's disease patients. Thus, thiamine is essential in improving and protecting the long-term health of your child’s brain, and ensuring that your child is getting proper nutrition from a young age will help them establish healthy habits throughout life. (2)

Maintains cardiovascular health:  Vitamin B1 plays a big part in cardiac health, and its deficiency can lead to congestive heart failure. A systematic review of 22 clinical trials found that thiamine supplementation in people with heart failure significantly improved their cardiac functions. In another randomized study, thiamine supplementation effectively improved the blood flow from the left ventricle compared to the control group. (2)

Prevents cataracts:  One recent study suggests that thiamine helps reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Although your kids might not have to worry about this just yet, it’s important to learn the lifelong preventative benefits of vitamins and nutrients on one’s health from a young age! B-complex vitamins and vitamins E and C protect your eye lens from damage. Many studies found that people who consumed plenty of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin A in their diet at earlier ages were less expected to get cataracts in older age. (2)

Improves digestive functions:  Thiamine is essential to maintaining the health of the body’s digestive system. It is a key vitamin that helps regulate the strengths of your child’s intestinal walls, and it even aids in preventing diarrhea in kids. This vitamin also helps control hydrochloric acid (HCL) release from the stomach, maintaining digestive functions. (5)

Regulates sugar metabolism:  Thiamine phosphate, a primary active form of thiamine, is essential for glucose (sugar) metabolism. One study revealed that people with type 1 or 2 diabetes had a low level of thiamine, ranging from 17 to 79%. Another study found that a higher intake of thiamine can reduce the severity of symptoms associated with diabetes. If your child is having diabetes kids symptoms, it is wise to check in with their physician before giving them any nutritional supplements. (2)

What is Thiamine Deficiency?

Thiamine is a potent neural antioxidant that provides several benefits. It follows that its deficiency can cause many negative side effects in both kids and adults. Major causes for its deficiency include: (1)

  • Inadequate dietary intake of thiamine
  • Excess excretion or limited absorption of thiamine in your body due to certain conditions, such as abnormal use of certain medicines, alcohol dependence, and AIDS
  • Excessive use of diuretics 

What are the symptoms of low vitamin B1? It can be easy to miss the symptoms related to thiamine deficiency in your child. Common signs of vitamin B1 deficiency are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Reduced reflexes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Severe deficiency syndrome

Loss of appetite:  The first and most common symptom of thiamine deficiency is loss of appetite, and deficiency can even lead to anorexia (eating disorder) because it is a key component in regulating your satiety (fullness). One study revealed that lack of thiamine disturbs the satiety center in your hypothalamus (a part of the brain that controls different daily activities). Therefore, deficiency of B1 can cause your child to feel full even when they are not, resulting in loss of appetite. (6)

Fatigue:  Fatigue occurs suddenly or gradually, depending upon the severity of thiamine deficiency. Because vitamin B1 plays a role in energy production for your child’s body, it's no surprise that fatigue, or lack of energy, is a common symptom of thiamine deficiency. If you have tired children, you might consider making sure they are getting enough vitamin B1 in their diet. (7)

Irritability:  Irritability is a feeling of frustration or agitation. One study found that irritability is strongly associated with infants suffering from Beriberi, a disease that occurs due to vitamin B1 deficiency. Thiamine deficiency, especially extreme forms, might cause your child to become more easily upset and irritated. (2)

Reduced reflexes:  Lack of thiamine affects your motor nerves, which are responsible for voluntary movement. Research has shown that limited or absent reflexes of the ankle, triceps, and knee develop as thiamine deficiency progresses. This means that coordination and walking ability can be negatively impacted in children if they aren’t getting enough vitamin B1 in their everyday diet. If vitamin B1 deficiency is left untreated, it can severely damage the nervous system which controls numerous activities in the body. (1)

Muscle weakness:  Temporary or short-term muscle weakness can occur in everyone at some point. However, long-term or persistent muscle weakness can be a result of thiamine deficiency. Several studies have depicted that kids and adults suffering from thiamine deficiency tend to have muscle weakness. (3)

Severe deficiency syndrome: When symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency remain untreated, they can lead to severe deficiency disorders, including beriberi and other abnormalities related to the neural system or brain.

  • Dry beriberi is a deficiency syndrome that includes partial paralysis and wasting (when muscle and fat tissues “waste” away. It is characterized by muscle and nerve abnormalities, burning sensation in the feet, mental confusion, vomiting, and leg cramps. (8)
  • Wet beriberi affects your cardiovascular system and makes your capillaries weak. It also causes abnormal heart rate, edema, and vasodilation. (8)
  • Gastrointestinal beriberi includes abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and cramps. (8)
  • Infantile beriberi is common in children aged two to six months. It is characterized by vomiting, weight loss, pale skin, edema, diarrhea, and hoarseness. It demands immediate treatment and attention because its acute form can be fatal for infants. (8)
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by vitamin B1 deficiency. Common symptoms of this disorder include confusion, memory loss, and hallucination. In the United States, this disorder is primarily present in those with alcoholism because abnormal alcohol intake reduces the availability of thiamine to the brain. However, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can also be caused by malnutrition and other hereditary diseases that inhibit the normal use of thiamine in the body. (8)

How Much Thiamine Does Your Kid Need per Day?

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) contains dose recommendations for vitamin B1 (thiamine). DRI is the optimal amount of nutrients that a person needs per day, and it lists the below for thiamine dosing. As a parent, you might also be asking, "How much vitamin B1 should I take daily?" Well, we have included recommended amounts based on the research for kids, adolescents and adults below! (1)

 Age Recommended Daily Amount in Milligrams (mg)
2-5 years 1.27 mg
6-11 years 1.54 mg
12-19 years 1.68 mg
20+ years 1.39 mg (females)/1.9 mg (males)

Should you Give Your Child Vitamin B1 Supplements?

Making sure your child is eating a wide range of healthy, whole foods every day is the preferred way of making sure they get enough vitamin B1. However, supplementation may be necessary for those picky eaters and in the case of deficiency caused by malnutrition or other conditions. You might opt for a multivitamin to make sure your child is also getting other needed vitamins and nutrients. However, vitamin B1 is also available by itself or in the form of a B-complex supplement.

What Foods Contain Vitamin B1?

Dietary sources of thiamine are fish, whole grains, and meat. In the United States, infant formulas, bread, and breakfast cereals are also fortified with thiamine. The most common sources of vitamin B1 in the United States are cereals and bread. Pork is also a rich source of vitamin B1. Fruits and dairy products contain small amounts of this vitamin. Almost half of the U.S. population gets thiamine from natural foods, while others get thiamine from fortified products. (1)

Thiamine is a heat-sensitive vitamin, so heating food can reduce its thiamine content. For example, bread contains 30% less thiamine compared to its raw ingredients. Similarly, pasteurization of milk reduces the thiamine content by 20%. The way you choose to process foods also affects their thiamine level. For example, processed white rice contains ten times less thiamine than brown rice. That's why you might notice that many white rices you find in the store are enriched with thiamine after processing. (1)

So, to answer the question of, "How can I get vitamin B1 in my child's diet?", here is a list of foods that contain thiamine: (1)

 Food Serving size Milligrams (mg) per serving
Enriched white rice, boiled 1/2 cup 1.4
Fortified breakfast cereals 1 bowl 1.2
Enriched egg noodles, cooked 1 cup 0.5
Pork chop, boiled 3 oz 0.4
Trout, cooked 3 oz 0.4
Black beans, boiled 1 cup 0.4
Enriched English muffins, plain 1 small muffin 0.3
Bluefin tuna, cooked 3 oz 0.2
Acorn squash, baked 1/2 cup 0.2
Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 0.1
Orange juice 1 cup 0.1
Yellow corn, boiled 1 medium ear 0.1

Risks and Side Effects of Thiamine

Vitamin B1 for kids is generally found to be safe when taken in recommended amounts and especially with the guidance of your child's pediatrician. But what happens when you have too much vitamin B1? Excessive intake of thiamine can cause harmful effects on your child's health, such as itching, sweating and swelling of the skin, nausea, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), discoloration of the skin, shortness of breath, weakness, and allergic reactions. People consuming high doses of thiamine have also reported blurry vision, increased urination, abdominal cramps, excessive thirst and vomiting. (1)

It is always recommended that you seek guidance from your kid’s primary care doctor before administering nutritional supplements, especially if your child is taking other medications. Research has indicated that thiamine does not cause any severe interaction with other drugs, although mild interactions have been reported with antibiotic drugs such as Azithromycin and Erythromycin. You might consider sharing a list of your child’s medicines with your physician to avoid possible side effects. (9)


Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is an essential vitamin that plays a significant role in energy production in your child’s body. Above, we learned that it maintains the cardiac and mental health of your child, and it supports immune functions in your child’s body, among other benefits. Deficiency can lead to harmful outcomes, such as beriberi disease which causes muscle and nerve abnormalities. Your child might be lacking vitamin B1 if you notice they have a lower appetite, are increasingly irritable, tired, weak or lack quick reflexes. Thiamine can be found in many food sources, both natural and fortified, and it can also be taken in supplement form.




Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.