Thiamin, Anorexics, Athletes, and Alcoholics – Book Excerpt of the Week

Thiamin (Vitamin B1) is a popular ingredient in energy drinks, sports supplements, and other “functional” beverages. In last week’s book excerpt, we talked about how thiamin would be a leader if the B-vitamins were all Marvel Avengers, and how thiamin’s role in carbohydrate metabolism makes it an important facilitator in energy production. Thiamin is readily absorbed, readily depleted, and easily excreted, so you can never have too much. But what happens when you don’t get enough? There are different names for thiamin deficiency, depending on how it manifests.


Anorexics, athletes, and alcoholics may all experience thiamin deficiency, for different reasons. Starvation leads to dry Beriberi. The combination of high carbohydrate intakes and heavy exercise can lead to wet Beriberi. Heavy alcohol use can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Alcohol diminishes thiamin absorption and increases its excretion. Since thiamin is not readily stored, a poor quality diet with heavy alcohol consumption can lead to rapid thiamin depletion and deficiency.

Stay tuned as we look at other B-vitamins in our page-by-page tour through my book on the science of energy drinks and their ingredients.

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