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Vitamin B1: Nootropic Spotlight

Expert Writer and Contributor 
About the Author

Charlotte was awarded a Master of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Bristol. She is currently completing a PhD at the University of Leeds.

About the Contributor
Mus was awarded a Master of Science degree in Medical Biotechnology and Business Management from the University of Warwick. 


Most of us don't have an image in our mind of what pre-industrial cultures looked like. Perhaps at best we have an idea of what our home nation was like pre-industrial revolution. However, for someone living in the west, East-Asian cultures seem mysterious. Visa-versa. 

And when we do think of the past, it's not uncommon to associate it with more military conflict. The world was more dangerous.

It may be true the internet has increased access and enabled collaboration to people around the world. But even in modern times, the history, science and arts of far flung cultures seem illusive still. 

Yet it is this distance and remoteness that makes the discovery of the first B-vitamin (B1 or Thiamine) even more fascinating. 

Without knowing it. Separated by thousands of miles. Vast oceans standing between them. Military researchers in Japan and the Netherlands were converging on a discovery that would shake up our view on human nutrition.

More importantly to them, it would help treat Beriberi - a disease affecting human strength, speech, sense of touch and mental awareness - that was long impacting the health of soldiers in warring nations. 

If you're looking to start taking Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) as a supplement, you can learn more about our Mood & Wellbeing Nootropic Supplement at nooroots. If you have any questions after reading this post, you can either visit our support resources or simply contact us via our online form.



  • What is Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)?
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Deficiency
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Benefits
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Mechanism of Action
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Side Effects
  • Recommended Dosages of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Best Natural Food Sources of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)


Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): A Health Guide to Safe and Effective Supplementation


vitamin b1 thiamine nooroots nootropic supplements


What is Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)?

Thiamine (vitamin B1) is one of eight essential B-vitamins, and it was the first vitamin to be discovered1!

As with all B-vitamins, our bodies cannot produce thiamine themselves, so we need to consume it in food or through supplements2.

It was this fact that caused widespread thiamine deficiency, known as beriberi, in the Japanese Navy in the late 1800s. In 1884, Kanehiro Takaki, a Japanese naval medical officer, first documented the association between diet and beriberi3.

These observations were followed up by a Dutch military medical officer Christiaan Eijkman and his colleague who noticed birds feeding on grain seemed healthy but birds feeding on grain without the outer layer suffered. What was causing this phenomena?

Further observations found that the outer layer of grain was rich in Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) hence why some birds were suffering while others were perfectly fine. 

Umertaro Suzuki, from Tokyo Imperial University, first isolated Vitamin B1 from rice bran in 1910. Unfortunately, his work stayed within the Eastern hemisphere due to the inability to translate his findings from Japanese to English or German. 

Eventually, Christiaan Eijkman's work in the discovery of vitamin B1 earned him a Nobel Prize in 19294!



Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Deficiency

As mentioned above, thiamine deficiency can be particularly dangerous if left untreated! Initial symptoms of thiamine deficiency include1,5:
  • Irritability
  • Short term memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Cognitive decline

Lack of vitamin B1 can then lead to the onset of beriberi, which affects the cardiovascular system (wet beriberi) and the central nervous system (dry beriberi).

Even greater deficiency can also lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which is a neurological disease1.


Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Benefits

Thiamine has been linked to improvements in brain function since the 19th century, and it’s associated with an abundance of beneficial effects, that include:

  • Cognitive enhancement and boosted memory: A multitude of scientific research papers have been published to illustrate the brain boosting impact of thiamine6–8.
  • Improved motor control: B1 supports myelin sheath production, insulating nerve cells in the brain to improve the speed and efficiency of electrical impulse transmission5,9.
  • Anti-oxidative properties: Vitamin B1 is a neuroprotective antioxidant, protecting against cell stress and damage5,10.
  • Reduced anxiety and stress: Thiamine is essential for neurotransmitter synthesis, including the production of dopamine and serotonin5,11.


Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Mechanism of Action

Thiamine is essential for glucose metabolism. This is the way in which our bodies can convert the food we eat into energy for our cells. This is especially important for brain health, because, whilst our brains only make up 2% of our body mass, they need at least 20% of our glucose to function properly6

This active vitamin is also important for the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are what our brains use as ‘chemical messengers’ to transmit signals between neurons (brain cells). They include dopamine, serotonin and histamine12!

As if that wasn’t enough, thiamine is key in the formation of myelin. Myelin is a substance that wraps around the end of nerve cells, acting as an insulating sheath. This is critical for the rapid and efficient transmission of electrical impulses in our brains5!


Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Side Effects

Thiamine (vitamin B1) is incredibly safe and has very mild to no side effects. The rare side effects include2:
  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea


Recommended Dosages of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

The Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) for Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is 1.1mg (milligram). No safe upper limit (SUL) have been established for Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) due to the lack of evidence associating negative effects with high thiamine intake. 


Learn More About NRV and SUL  

The NRV and SUL are two values assigned to vitamins and minerals that are designed to provide guidance on how much of a specific nutrient can be consumed. 

NRV can be defined as the amount of a specific nutrient needed to adequately meet known nutritional deficiencies. Whereas the SUL is the highest level of nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of bad health effects for almost all individuals in the general population.

It is very safe to consum levels of nutrients greater than the NRV as long as the intake is below the SUL. 

At nooroots, we take both these values into consideration when performing research and product development. We work with our scientists and partners to select a nutrient level that is both safe and effective. 


Best Natural Food Sources of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

 Here are the top 10 foods rich in Thiamine:

  1. Lean Pork Chops
  2. Salmon
  3. Flax Seeds
  4. Navy Beans
  5. Green Peas
  6. Tofu
  7. Brown Rice
  8. Acorn Squash
  9. Asparagus
  10. Mussels

*data sourced from My Food Data




Merging of medical military ideas and research from the East and West resulted in the discovery of what we now know as Vitamin B1 (Thiamine). Unquestionably, the discovery of the first B-vitamin had a unique catalysing effect on nutritional research in human diet and disease. 

While the history of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is convoluted, the science is definitive: Cognitive enhancement, improved motor control, neuroprotective and mood management are all benefits of taking Vitamin B1 (Thiamine). 

Thiamine is safe in relatively large doses. While no safe upper limit has been established, overly excessive consumption of Thiamine may cause mild unpleasant effects. However, in most cases, Thiamine can be efficiently removed from our bodies. 

If you're looking to start taking Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) as a supplement, you can learn more about our Mood & Wellbeing Nootropic Supplement at nooroots.


Learn more about the other vitamins, minerals and plant extracts we use to give your brain a daily boost 



  1.  Wiley, K. D.; Gupta, M. Vitamin B1 Thiamine Deficiency. In StatPearls; StatPearls Publishing: Treasure Island (FL), 2022.
  2. Thiamine: a medicine for treating vitamin B1 (or thiamine) deficiency (accessed 2022 -05 -03).
  3. Sugiyama, Y.; Seita, A. Kanehiro Takaki and the Control of Beriberi in the Japanese Navy. J R Soc Med 2013, 106 (8), 332–334.
  4. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1929 (accessed 2022 -05 -05).
  5. Calderón-Ospina, C. A.; Nava-Mesa, M. O. B Vitamins in the Nervous System: Current Knowledge of the Biochemical Modes of Action and Synergies of Thiamine, Pyridoxine, and Cobalamin. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics 2020, 26 (1), 5–13.
  6. Gibson, G. E.; Hirsch, J. A.; Fonzetti, P.; Jordan, B. D.; Cirio, R. T.; Elder, J. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Dementia. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2016, 1367 (1), 21–30.
  7. Inaba, H.; Kishimoto, T.; Oishi, S.; Nagata, K.; Hasegawa, S.; Watanabe, T.; Kida, S. Vitamin B1-Deficient Mice Show Impairment of Hippocampus-Dependent Memory Formation and Loss of Hippocampal Neurons and Dendritic Spines: Potential Microendophenotypes of Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry 2016, 80 (12), 2425–2436.
  8. Ambrose, M. L.; Bowden, S. C.; Whelan, G. Thiamin Treatment and Working Memory Function of Alcohol-Dependent People: Preliminary Findings. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2001, 25 (1), 112–116.
  9. Harel, Y.; Zuk, L.; Guindy, M.; Nakar, O.; Lotan, D.; Fattal-Valevski, A. The Effect of Subclinical Infantile Thiamine Deficiency on Motor Function in Preschool Children. Maternal & Child Nutrition 2017, 13 (4), e12397.
  10. Gibson, G. E.; Blass, J. P. Thiamine-Dependent Processes and Treatment Strategies in Neurodegeneration. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 2007, 9 (10), 1605–1620.
  11. Rapala-Kozik, M. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): A Cofactor for Enzymes Involved in the Main Metabolic Pathways and an Environmental Stress Protectant. In Advances in Botanical Research; Rébeillé, F., Douce, R., Eds.; Biosynthesis of Vitamins in Plants Part A; Academic Press, 2011; Vol. 58, pp 37–91.
  12. What are neurotransmitters? (accessed 2022 -05 -03).

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