Vitamin B1 – chemists call it thiamine – is a mental pep pill. The British psychologist reached this conclusion in the 1990s. Benton got female students to take 50 mg vitamin B1 daily for two months and discovered that his subjects’ mood improved and that their reactions became quicker.
In 1995 Benton published a study in which he showed that subjects’ mood improved if the amount of vitamin B1 in their blood increased and that the opposite occurred if the amount of vitamin B1 decreased. [Neuropsychobiology. 1995;32(2):98-105.]
The subjects in this study had been given a multivitamin supplement. Because he wanted to be certain that it was the vitamin B1, and not another substance, that had made the subjects more upbeat, Benton repeated the experiment a few years later. This time round he gave his subjects vitamin B1 only.
Benton used 122 female students as his subjects. Before and after giving his subjects either vitamin B1 or a placebo, Benton subjected the students to a battery of psychological tests. Some of these measured the students’ memory function, but the supplementation was not seen to have any effect on this.
The vitamin B1 supplementation was observed to have an effect on reaction speed. Benton put the students in front of a panel in which 1, 2, 4 or 8 lamps could light up. If one lamp lit up the students had to place a finger on the illuminated lamp. The time it took them to do this became shorter when they had taken a vitamin B1 supplement.
Benton also got the students to fill in the Profile of Mood States questionnaire. This measures how people are feeling, and Benton observed an effect in two of the six items: vitamin B1 made the students more clear-headed and improved their mood.
Researchers employed by Hoffman-LaRoche also participated in Benton’s study.
Thiamine supplementation mood and cognitive functioning.
Benton D1, Griffiths R, Haller J.
One hundred and twenty young adult females took either a placebo or 50 mg thiamine, each day for 2 months. Before and after taking the tablets, mood, memory and reaction times were monitored. An improvement in thiamine status was associated with reports of being more clearheaded, composed and energetic. The taking of thiamine had no influence on memory but reaction times were faster following supplementation. These influences took place in subjects whose thiamine status, according to the traditional criterion, was adequate.
PMID: 9122365 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]