Vitamin B1 Deficiency


Vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency may result from

  • inadequate thiamin intake (e.g., from diets low in thiamin in underdeveloped countries, and from alcoholism in industrialized countries)
  • increased requirement for thiamin (caused by strenuous physical exertion, fever, pregnancy, breast-feeding, and adolescent growth)
  • excessive loss of thiamin from the body (kidney failure)
  • consumption of anti-thiamin factors in food (e.g., large amounts of tea and coffee)
  • a combination of these factors.

Nowadays in the Western world, vitamin B1 deficiency is mainly found as a consequence of extreme alcoholism.


Vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency affects the cardiovascular, nervous, muscular, and gastrointestinal systems (1). The disease resulting from severe thiamin deficiency is called ‘beriberi’. Depending on the systems affected by severe thiamin deficiency, beriberi has been termed dry (damage of nerves in legs and arms), wet (damage of the heart), or cerebral (brain damage) (2).

Authored by Dr Peter Engel in 2010, reviewed and revised by  Angelika Friedel on 29.06.17