Thiamine to Energize the Brain, Improve Memory

What are the benefits of Thiamine and can it improve your memory? Understanding thiamine benefits is an important question and there is still much to be gained from future Thiamine research, because I think thiamine could be beneficial for memory. Thiamine, or Thiamin, is a B vitamin, also known as B1, an essential water soluble nutrient which is used by and sometimes necessary for the synthesis of certain enzymes, such as alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase (which helps prevent neuron loss), transketolase, pyruvate dehydrogenase (an autoantigen of oxidized protein from inflammatory responses), as well as neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine. It helps create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the production of which slows down with age and is adversely affected by stress. ATP is crucial for glucose metabolism, the most important source of energy for brain cells. The brain requires a continuous supply. It also protects cells from free radicals created during cell metabolism so Thiamine is an important antioxidant for both the mind and body. It helps protect our blood brain barrier while supporting the myelin sheaths of nerves cells.

Thiamine deficiency can lead to problems such as brain fog, dizziness, and vision impairment. Also, low glucose utilization in certain areas of the brain have been indicative of mental impairments. The brain requires nearly 1/5th of the body’s energy supply to function! Areas, such as the cerebellum have one of the highest glucose requirements. It is involved in language, attention, motor abilities, and the regulation of fear and pleasure. The mammillary bodies, another energy intensive area, is involved with memory and smell recognition.

Thiamine is an “anti-neuritic” vitamin. Neuritis, which involves inflammation of the nerves, can cause many health complications depending on where the nerve inflammation is located.

Inflammation of sensory motor neurons may cause the sensation of stabbing pain, while inflammation of motor neurons could cause weakness or even paralysis. Neuritis can also cause circulation issues. But what happens when neuron inflammation occurs in the brain? Could mental impairment result? It seems probable. The presence of neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, also known as dendritic or amyloid plaques, indeed can be an indication of Alzheimer’s Disease. The cause is still unknown but the condition can be exacerbated by any number of environmental, mechanical, metabolic, and allergic reactions. Sufferers of Alzheimer’s Disease tend to have low levels of thiamine diphosphate, or TPP, a thiamine derivative important for glucose metabolism.

As the population continues to age, many more people will be affected by Alzheimer’s Disease in the coming years. Thiamine supplementation may not be the panacea, but its inclusion in a healthy aging regimen seems like a wise start. More research on the anti-neuritic properties of Thiamine is certainly in order.

Do You Have a Thiamine Deficiency?


Type 1: Wet Beriberi-symptoms: cardiovascular disease, heart failure, congestion in lungs

Type 2: Dry Beriberi symptoms: muscle atrophy, leg cramps, nerve pain

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome stymptoms: abnormal eye movements, confusion, and coma. Vitamin B1 deficiencies linked with alcohol abuse increases the risk.

Not getting enough Thiamin can lead to all kinds of health complications from anxiety, to lack of appetite, weakness and fatigue, to beriberi and psychiatric disorders. The body’s ability to absorb Thiamine and other b-vitamins decrease with age so many elderly people are at an increased risk of deficiency and may require more than the standard 1.1 mg/day.

Regular alcohol consumption, diabetes, stress, diarrhea, or kidney disease can also put a person at risk of Thiamine deficiency. Thiamine deficiency can make it harder for the body to digest carbohydrates, increasing pyruvic acid levels in the body which is associated with a loss of mental vigor.

Certain medications, such as Loop diuretics including Edecrin, Bumex, Lasix, and Demadex may also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb Thiamine, especially those used to treat heart conditions. If any of these risk factors apply to you or you think you may be experiencing Thiamine deficiency symptoms, be sure to discuss Thiamine supplementation with your healthcare provider.

Thiamine Dosage

Brewer’s yeast, which comes from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae fungus, is a good natural source of thiamine. A 2 tablespoon serving of brewer’s yeast can provide about 1.2 mg of thiamine depending on your source.

Decades ago, giving just 3 mg of Thiamine per day (versus a typical diet containing just 1 mg) to growing children at an orphanage demonstrated measurable improvements of up to 40% on memory and mental tasks and quickened response times after just six weeks compared to their peers who had only received the placebo. However, other studies have shown interesting, but mixed results and results are not conclusive as there are other mediating factors such as diet and the time of year of the study. Taking thiamine, especially in the winter, when diets lack, may be especially beneficial.

Because Thiamin is water soluble and absorption is dependent on a number of factors which may vary, it may be advisable to take Thiamine in small doses throughout the day rather than one large dose.

50-100 mg/day of Thiamine is a common supplemental dose.

Thiamine Toxicity: How Much Thiamine is Too Much?

While an upper intake level of Thiamine has not been established, up to 200 mg/day over an extended period of time appears safe. The current RDA of Thiamine for women is just 1.1 mg/day, which does not seem like nearly enough in my opinion. Beware that very large intravenous doses could cause anaphylactic shock. But probably the most likely risk of taking too much Thiamine, under normal circumstances, is creating an imbalance in other important b vitamins. B vitamins work synergistically to produce energy and reduce anxiety, all of which are beneficial for the brain, so it is a good idea to take a high quality vitamin b complex, even if you are taking Thiamine separately. Very high doses might also cause an upset stomach.

Synthetic and Other Forms of Thiamine

Sulbutiamine is a synthetic Thiamine derivative that can cross the blood-brain barrier more rapidly than regular Thiamine. It appears to be beneficial for the memory, and has been used to treat chronic fatigue, known as asthenia, by acting as a cerebral stimulant. 12.5mg/kg according to Wikipedia: is considered a therapeutic dose, though no more than 600 mg/day is advised by one manufacturer.

AlliThiamine is a fat soluble form of Thiamine preferred over the water soluble forms in cases of Thiamine deficiency. It is naturally occurring in garlic.

Benfotiamine, another synthetic derivative of Thiamine, marketed as an antioxidant, may be useful in diabetic retinopathy, which left untreated may result in blindness, and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) but further study is still needed.