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What does vitamin B1 do?

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Quick Answer

Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is water-soluble and assists cells in turning food into energy, as Healthline explains. B1 is found in foods, supplements and multivitamins.

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Full Answer

Thiamine deficiency causes problems with nervous system, heart and mental functioning, notes Healthline. Thiamine deficiency is more likely to occur in people with alcoholism, Crohn's disease and anorexia as well as people undergoing kidney dialysis. People taking loop diuretics, which are usually prescribed for congestive heart failure, are also at risk of thiamine deficiency, as these medicines can flush thiamine out of the body. Thiamine is important for the heart to function properly, so people who take the heart medications phenytoin and digoxin should also be cautious.

People with a thiamine deficiency may experience beriberi, a problem that affects breathing, heart function, eye movements and alertness, according to Healthline. It is caused by a build-up of pyruvic acid in the bloodstream, which can happen when cells have problems turning food into fuel. The deficiency can also cause Wernicke's disease, which causes vision problems, muscle coordination issues and mental decline. This disease can lead to Korsakoff's syndrome, which causes memory loss. Thiamine supplements may also be useful for people with cataracts and diabetics with kidney disease.

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