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Adv Food Nutr Res. 2018;83:1-56. doi: 10.1016/bs.afnr.2017.11.001. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


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Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, United States. Electronic address:


Starting with a brief history of beriberi and the discovery that thiamin deficiency is its cause, the symptoms and signs are reviewed. None are pathognomonic. The disease has a low mortality and a long morbidity. The appearance of the patient can be deceptive, often being mistaken for psychosomatic disease in the early stages. The chemistry of thiamin and the laboratory methodology for depicting its deficiency are outlined. The diseases associated with thiamin deficiency, apart from malnutrition, include a number of genetically determined conditions where mutations, either in the cofactor relationship or a transporter, provide the etiology. It is emphasized that such mutations are often epigenetically responsive to megadoses of thiamin or one of its derivatives. The use of thiamin in clinical practice requires a high index of suspicion on the part of the clinician since it has a part to play in eating disorders, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer. A high rate of critical illness and postsurgery thiamin deficiency have been reported, particularly those associated with gastrointestinal bypass. Emphasis is placed on thiamin deficiency as a major cause of asymmetric dysautonomia, because of the high degree of sensitivity to thiamin deficiency in the brainstem, cerebellum, and hypothalamus. The relationship of thiamin with regional pain syndrome, eosinophilic esophagitis, its analgesic capacity, and its preventive use in obstetrics is raised as a potential issue. The role of thiamin in SIDS and autism is outlined. It is emphasized that megadose thiamin is being used as a drug, either in stimulating the damaged cofactor/enzyme combination, or mitochondria.


Beriberi; Dysautonomia; Epigenetics; Genetics; Mitochondria; Transketolase

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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