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BEFORE WE START: There are some topics that I am reluctant to address on this website, because there are folks within the community who have extremely vested interests in them. Thiamine (or Vitamin B1) is one of those topics. Some members of the Parkinson’s community have indicated to me that high doses of this vitamin are helping them. If you are one of those people, I say ‘Wonderful! Do what works for you”.
To stem the endless flow of emails asking for thoughts on high dose thiamine, however, I am writing this post to outline what research has been done on this topic in the Parkinson’s field. If you are looking for answers on thiamine, you may be disappointed. I am doing this to be able to point all future inquires towards it. That said, let’s begin:
In today’s post, we will delve into what thiamine (or vitamin B1) is and what it does in the body, how it relates to Parkinson’s, and we will discuss what clinical research exists for supporting its use as a treatment for PD.
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The Ryūjō. Source: Wikipedia
On December 19th 1882, the Japanese Naval training ship Ryujo (“Prancing Dragon”) set sail from Shinagawa, Japan, and over the next 10 months it called in at New Zealand (yay!), Chile, and Peru.
During this routine training voyage, however, 169 members of a crew of 376 crew became very sick.
That’s almost half (45%) of the crew.
In fact, the situation on board the boat got so bad that they had to stop in Hawaii on the homeward leg, because too many of the crew were sick to continue the voyage. Sadly by the time they returned to Japan in October 1883, there were 25 less members of the crew as a result of death due to sickness (and remember this was just a training voyage).
What was the sickness?
The men were suffering from a condition called beriberi.
What is beriberi?
Beriberi comes from a Sinhalese phrase which translates to “weak, weak” or “I cannot, I cannot“. There are two forms of the condition: ‘wet’ beriberi and ‘dry’ beriberi. Wet beriberi involves a fast heart rate, shortness of breath, and leg swelling. Dry beriberi is characterised by numbness of the hands and feet, confusion, trouble moving the legs, and pain. It is often said that ‘Wet’ involves the heart and ‘Dry’ involves the brain.
Both forms of the condition, however, are caused by a deficiency in vitamin B1 – also known as thiamine.
What is Vitamin B1?