Role of Thiamin in Health and Disease

Nutr Clin Pract. 2019 Aug;34(4):558-564. doi: 10.1002/ncp.10234. Epub 2019 Jan 15.


Thiamin is a hydrosoluble vitamin that plays a role in several biological processes, mainly in glucose metabolism. There are several risk factors for developing thiamin deficiency, such as malnutrition, refeeding syndrome, gastrointestinal surgery, and alcoholism. Recently, the role of thiamin in critically ill patients has gained prominence, and the prevalence of thiamin deficiency was found to be increased in patients with severe burns, major surgery, septic shock, end-stage renal disease, and heart failure. In adults, thiamin deficiency presents as encephalopathy, dry beriberi (with neurological signs and symptoms), or wet beriberi (with cardiovascular signs and symptoms). Thiamin deficiency can be diagnosed clinically, and all clinicians should be aware of this disease, especially in patients with risk factors for thiamin deficiency. Thiamin supplementation should be started as early as possible in patients suspected to have thiamin deficiency. Treatment is safe, inexpensive, simple, and life-saving. Diagnosis is confirmed on a positive response to treatment.

Keywords: Korsakoff syndrome; Wernicke encephalopathy; beriberi; thiamin; thiamin deficiency.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Thiamine / metabolism*
  • Thiamine Deficiency / etiology*


  • Thiamine