A deficiency of thiamine or vitamin B1 is known to cause beriberi. A person suffering from this disease feels lethargic and fatigued all the time. Such a patient can suffer from complications related to the cardiovascular, nervous, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal systems. There are basically three types of beriberi, namely dry beriberi, wet beriberi, and infantile beriberi.
Dry beriberi damages the peripheral nerves, leading to wasting of the muscles and partial paralysis, which is also referred as endemic neuritis. Wet beriberi affects the cardiovascular system, giving rise to edema in the peripheral tissues. This type of beriberi is associated with heart failure. Infantile beriberi, as the name suggests, is found to occur in children, mostly in the developing countries.
Thiamine is naturally found in various grains in varying amounts. However, actions like washing these grains and boiling them in excess water destroys most of the vitamin content. Thus, beriberi tends to prevail in areas where the staple diet of the people is only polished rice. A traditional method of cooking, known as parboiling, which is still used in some parts of India, is found to be very beneficial in restoring this vitamin and preventing beriberi.
When the rice in the husk is steeped for some time in hot water and then allowed to dry in the sun, the husks crack off more easily and there is less breakage of grains during pounding. The initial soaking of the grain causes thiamine to diffuse into the endosperm and to remain there as the grains dry out. But this procedure leaves the grain with a characteristic musty flavor and slight discoloration, which is disliked by many consumers.
Thiamine is also found in dried brewer’s yeast, pork, dried peas, beans, and potatoes. Hence, reaching a desirable intake of thiamine is possible only if you eat a wide variety of foods. Another way of ensuring that your thiamine intake is adequate is to fortify rice with the synthetic form of this vitamin.
As a powder, thiamin cannot be blended with grains of white rice. However, methods have been developed of preparing vitamin-rich granules with the size and appearance of rice grains, and blending these in a specific ratio. To reduce loss of the vitamin during washing and cooking, the granules are coated with a nontoxic resin during the final stage of their production.