Which Vitamin Causes Beri Beri?

Dry Beri Beri in hand

Beri-Beri is a nutritional deficiency disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. Thiamine is an essential B-vitamin that plays a critical role in converting food into energy and maintaining proper functioning of the nervous system. When there is a deficiency of thiamine, it can lead to a range of symptoms and health problems associated with Beri-Beri.

Beri-Beri typically occurs in populations with diets that are chronically low in thiamine-rich foods, such as whole grains, lean meats, legumes, and nuts. There are two main forms of Beri-Beri:

  • Wet Beri-Beri: This form primarily affects the cardiovascular system and can lead to symptoms such as swelling (edema), heart problems, and shortness of breath due to fluid accumulation.
  • Dry Beri-Beri: This form primarily affects the nervous system and can lead to symptoms such as muscle weakness, peripheral neuropathy, difficulty walking, and mental confusion.

Beri-Beri is relatively rare in regions where balanced diets are common, but it can occur in certain populations with dietary limitations, such as individuals who rely heavily on polished (refined) rice as their primary food source. Thiamine deficiency can also occur in individuals with alcohol use disorder, as excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with thiamine absorption and utilization.

Treatment for Beri-Beri typically involves thiamine supplementation, either orally or intravenously, depending on the severity of the deficiency and the individual’s ability to absorb thiamine. In cases of chronic alcoholism, thiamine supplementation is often administered to prevent or treat Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a severe neurological condition associated with thiamine deficiency.

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