It has been observed that individuals who develop Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome have a deficiency of thiamine. The most common cause of this disorder is alcoholism. These individuals develop dementia, have memory loss, unsteady gait, and muscle weakness. When individuals with this disorder are treated with thiamine, the symptoms do dramatically reverse. Thus, there has been a recent trend to recommend thiamine to patients with Alzheimer’s dementia.
Thiamine is one of the Group B vitamins and known as B1. It is found in both plants and animals. Thiamine is vital for many metabolic functions in the body that use energy. Thiamine deficiency is quite rare but individuals who drink excess alcohol can develop deficiency of this amino acid.
Because lack of thiamine can cause dementia in Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome, it has been proposed that perhaps thiamine can also be used to reduce severity of Alzheimer’s disease. Almost every health food stores sells thiamine and this amino acid is widely hyped up as a cure for many dementias. Thiamine has been marketed heavily for treatment of many medical disorders including Alzheimer’s, but does it work?
Several years ago several controlled studies looked at the effects of thiamine on dementia. Thiamine was administered daily and compared with a sugar pill. The three studies from the 90s did not reveal any benefit of thiamine in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The only positive observation was that thiamine had no side effects. Since then many anecdotal reports have been published and countless patient testimonials indicate that thiamine does not reverse or slow down dementia in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
For the moment, thiamine cannot be recommended as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. For individuals who still believe in thiamine and would like to treat their family members with dementia, foods containing thiamine are much better than pills. Capsules or pills containing thiamine have often been found to contain fake and counterfeit products. Foods which are rich in thiamine include whole grains, rice, bran, brewer’s years and wheat germ. These foods are cheaper and also more nutritious than any pill.