Thiamine mononitrate, often referred to as vitamin B1, is an essential human nutrient involved in a variety of cellular processes, such as the synthesis of amino acids or the use of sugars as energy. Though the compound is required by the biology of all animals on Earth, it is only generated in primitive organisms such as bacteria and plant life, so human beings must obtain it through their food or nutritional supplements. When thiamine mononitrate is added as a supplement to foods such as breakfast cereals, it is often referred to in a broader context as a B-vitamin complex. This is because its usually added in conjunction with other B vitamins, such as vitamin B2 or riboflavin, vitamin B3 or niacin, and vitamin B6 known as pyridoxine, as well as others.
While vital to virtually every cellular function in the body where it is broken down into thiamin pyrophosphate, one of these areas is the proper function of the human nervous system. If there is a deficiency of thiamine mononitrate, inflammation of nerves near the brain known as peripheral neuritis can occur. The vitamin is also crucial to metabolic processes such as digestion, and supplements are often prescribed to alleviate diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, and other related conditions affected by the impaired metabolism of food into energy and nutrients.
Sources for thiamine mononitrate are widespread throughout the food chain due to its common presence in plants, and include fish, nuts, and other protein, and whole grains. Supplements of vitamin B1 have a long shelf-life of up to 42 months due to the stability of the compound, and this makes it ideal as an additive in many dry foods as well as beverage powders. One of the most common places it is added as a supplemental nutrient is in fortified, enriched flour.
Vitamin B1 can go by other related names on labels such as thiamine and thiamine hydrochloride due to the source from which it is obtained, and it can be included in ingredients that are not listed on a label. An example of this are the compounds of carrageenan and Irish moss, which are forms of algae that contain thiamine mononitrate. Algae is a common ingredient in many cosmetics such as face creams, and it contains several essential vitamins and minerals. Since thiamine mononitrate promotes healthy skin and hair growth, this gives it a dual use commercially as both a cosmetic and nutritional aid.
Evidence suggests that the vitamin has a wide range of helpful effects on the human body. From improving vision and mental states such as learning ability and memory, to boosting the immune system, to delaying the onset of diseases like Alzheimer's disease or heart disease, thiamine mononitrate is a sort of all-purpose beneficial component of the diet. Thiamine mononitrate plays both major and minor roles in human health, from supporting the growth of children, to counteracting deficiencies caused by alcoholism, and minimizing the effects of motion sickness.