Thiamine (vitamin B1) and it's effects on night vision - the overlooked vitamin?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 15, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Is thiamine overlooked in its role in vision? especially night vision. Everyone knows about retinol (vitamin A) and its importance for vision - eat up your carrots kids, and you will be able to see in the dark etc....but what about Thiamine?

Some background of where I coming from. I am very vision conscious. I developed myopia at about age ten and by late teens it was about -5.0R and -4.5L I hated wearing glasses and only wore them only when absolutely necessary; spending a lot of time outside. I was a somewhat slacker student so I didn't study or read much and this was pre-internet. My myopia wasn't from too much reading or screen time, my sister was the same. Neither of my parents had myopic eye trouble. I got contacts in my senior year of high school. In my early twenties I had LASIK and was set free of glasses and contacts lenses.

More than a decade passed and my eyes were better than normal, no problems until in the past year or so I noticed they were declining, not so bad that I needed glasses again, but they weren't great anymore and this was evident on my annual medical (using the Landolt ring eye test) Since cleaning up my act food wise, I noticed my eyes were initially sharper, they improved and were once again better than average. What exactly was the mechanism behind this initial improvement is really unknown. Much less sugar?, no wheat/gluten?, different lipid profile of my blood? ( do lipids affect vision?) HOWEVER, after about six months of Paleo life I noticed my night vision was becoming terrible and I began to question everything, was it the new diet? anyway I googled and came across of all things - an anti low carb website: Aktins exposed.


There was this page, the case of two naval men - an aviator and mechanic who both went low carb and suffered vision issues - especially night vision and it diagnosed as a deficiency of Thiamine - Vitamin B1. So I self experimented and sourced some Vitamin B specific supplements and began taking them and sure enough my night vision improved and my eyes are great once again. I have eased off the supplements and my vision has remained stable. As for having a vitamin B1 deficiency, I found that odd. Yeast extract is very rich in it which I love (vegemite) and pork too. Grains however are rich in thiamine so one hypothesis is that my body was previously used to a ready supply of thiamine via grains for years and when suddenly going cold turkey it wasn't adept at utilizing other sources primarily rather than the grains? Calf muscle cramps which I very occasionally get, are related to thiamine deficiency so perhaps I was having issues, but that is the only usual thiamine deficiency symptom that I displayed.

Anyone have any experiences with this or thoughts about this Thiamine/Night Vision connection?

Medium avatar


on September 12, 2011
at 05:45 PM

This is an interesting post, but what were you eating leading up to this last loss of vision? It seems like most standard paleo diets would have plenty of thiamin.



on August 29, 2011
at 04:27 PM

How does raw fish cause a thiamine deficiency?


on August 15, 2011
at 01:21 PM

I have OJ now and then and Robb Wolf has got me onto sweet potatoes, so no worries there.



on August 15, 2011
at 12:03 PM

Oj and sweet potatoes are a pretty good source, ~75% of the rda in 400cals of these foods.



on August 15, 2011
at 11:58 AM

Interesting. Thiamine is the only vitamin my diet was lacking in (apart from vitamin D which I supplement).

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4 Answers


on September 26, 2011
at 06:52 PM

Bah, humbug. I was reading that site as "atkin-sex-posed." Much more interesting than what it turned out to be. Funny how no one is allowed to make an error when they propose a new way of eating, a la Atkins. If they miss something, they are "exposed" as a fraud. (Never just someone who didn't get it 100% correct.)

Now, as to the topic, I agree with majkinetor: foods we eat today are just not nutritionally the same as what was available in paleo times (thus supplementation is very important). In addition, we have other environmental factors that could and probably*do* hinder in nutrient absorption. This isn't a result of eating paleo, because neolithic foods that are available certainly aren't better - in fact, they are worse. It's simply a result of living in the 21st century.


on March 27, 2013
at 09:10 PM

Sweet potatoes aren't a good source of thiamine if you cook them. Also some of the other sources listed may also contain thiaminase, which inactivates thiamine.

Google is your friend. Also Google Scholar.



on September 26, 2011
at 06:10 PM

I always say, and I will say it again: without at least multivitamin, you may be screwed, be it paleo, hi carb or junk. Why thinking about it ? Do your diet the best you can and xtra supplement can only prevent eventual harm like that noted in case study you posted.



on August 15, 2011
at 04:07 PM

Plenty of paleo foods are rich sources in thiamine:


Sunflower seeds and tuna appear to be rich sources.

Not listed is lean pork which is also a very good source. If you eat a lot of raw fish, this can cause a thiamine deficiency as well. Since thiamine is a b vit -- lots of sweating via exercise or weather may increase your needs. Also, if you are having very low carb days, the natural diuretic effect of this way of eating could accelerate b vitamin losses.



on August 29, 2011
at 04:27 PM

How does raw fish cause a thiamine deficiency?

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