Vitamin B1 and Alcoholism

Vitamin B1

The vitamin B1 is a water soluble vitamin ; its scientific name is Thiamine and it has several metabolic functions that are fundamental to say the least.
Vitamin B1 is also known as aneurine , because of its importance in maintaining efficiency nervous, or antiberiberica , by virtue of the typical clinical signs related to its nutritional deficiency: the syndrome of malnutrition Beri-Beri .


Metabolic functions :

  1. It is a coenzyme of carbohydrate metabolism
  2. It affects the transmission of the nerve impulse
  3. It intervenes in the metabolismof ethyl alcohol.

Absorption and Deficiency

Vitamin B1 is absorbed in the duodenum / small intestine and is subsequently deposited in the liver ; as anticipated, the nutritional deficiency of thiamine causes Beri-Beri and other complications of a neurological nature (neuritis and polyneuritis ), while excessive doses (reached with pharmacological administration) can induce shock .

Food intake

The vitamin B1 food sources are mainly of plant and fungal types: whole grains (not refined ones), legumes , wheat germ and fungi in general; it is also present in the liver and molluscs .
Vitamin B1 is quite stable to heat (thermostable) but a certain percentage (variable between foods ) is ALWAYS damaged by cooking food ; thiamine is also resistant to oxidation and light, while negatively undergoes exposure to alkaline pH and some preservative agents (SULPHITES).
They are antivitamins of vitamin B1:oxytiamine , juritiamine and thiaminase (enzyme of some aquatic animals and bacteria that hydrolyzes vitamin B1).
The recommended intake levels are equal to 0.4mg * 1000kcal introduced, but in the adult who introduces less than 2000kcal / day it is NOT advisable to go below 0.8mg / day.

Alcohol damage

L ‘ ethyl alcohol is contained in alcoholic beverages fermented, distilled, and syrupy. It is a molecule obtained by anaerobic fermentation of sugars through the action of some yeasts called saccharomycetes. L ‘ alcohol provides about 7 kcal / g but the human body does not oxidize in an effective manner, and most of that ingested with alcoholic beverages is intended to be converted into fatty acids and deposited in the adipose tissue in the form of triglycerides .
Ethyl alcohol has a negative impact on the body; it is perceived in a toxic way by all the cells of the body (starting from the nervous tissue to the epithelial one) and alters the hormonal structure by promoting the insulin response and inhibiting the secretion of hyperglycemic hormones (it also limits the neoglucogenesis in the liver at an enzymatic level) .
Ethyl alcohol is a substance that interacts with nerve cells causing a state of intoxication at the expense of mental clarity; in virtue of this characteristic it is considered a NERVINE principle and, as for opiates or other drugs, it is a molecule that can generate drug addiction .
The abuse of ethyl alcohol is definedALCOHOLISM ; this syndrome of abuse (frequently compulsive) significantly compromises the patient’s state of health and is often associated with malnutrition and other complications (such as marasma and organ degeneration), alterations in the hydro- saline balance and hypovitaminosis .
The vitamin most involved in the metabolism of alcohol and deficient in alcoholics is B1.

Thiamine and Alcoholism

Chronic ethanol abuse (alcoholism) produces a vitamin B1 deficiency which triggers Wernicke’s encephalopathy ; this disorder is acute and manifests itself with: ophthalmoplegia (extrinsic or intrinsic paralysis of the eyeball ), ataxia (loss of muscle coordination), walking disorders and confusion . The related complications are mainly nervous and vascular degenerative types.
The correlation between alcoholism and Wernicke’s encephalopathy concerns different aspects of vitamin B1; first, alcoholism leads to lack of appetite and consequent general malnutrition. As we have seen, the B1 vitamin is present in many foods but especially in whole grains , the germ of wheat and legumes; it is clear that these are NOT easily available foods for an alcoholic who, for the most part, uses occasional, fortuitous and therefore low quality products. Furthermore, B1 (unlike other molecules of the same family) is NOT an easily storable vitamin in the liver (although normally present in hepatocytes); this means that the body does not have the possibility to manage its reserves, consequently it can undergo hypovitaminosis. As if that were not enough, vitamin B1 shows a very strong sensitivity to some additives , sulphites, which are preservative agents useful to prevent the oxidation of foodstuffs. Sulphites are: sulfur dioxide , bisulfite, potassium and sodium bisulfite , all used in the preparation of wine (the subject of abuse, alcoholism) or in that of fruta dehydrated. It is also worth remembering that alcoholism causes chronic malabsorptionintestinal which, linked to the above, causes an almost inevitable deficiency of vitamin B1 in subjects suffering from chronic alcoholism.



For the alcoholic, vitamin B1 is even more important than for the healthy person; in hepatocytes, it is directly involved in the processes of metabolization and disposal of alcohol ; It is no coincidence that in the clinic, to reduce alcohol in acute episodes, injections of up to 300-600mg / day of vitamin B1 or insulin are used (which, despite having the ability to accelerate the disposal of ethyl alcohol, has too many side effects to be used in large doses). During detoxification, the use of methadoxine (which favors the release of GABA as an antagonist of glutamate, a molecule possibly responsible for the manifestations of alcohol withdrawal) is useful.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy therapy consists of intravenous injections (up to 100mg) of vitamin B1 for several days, further reinforced by oral intakes of about 50mg.


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