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Vitamin B1 Deficiency in Infancy Affects Childhood Motor Function

Vitamin B1 Deficiency in Infancy Affects Childhood Motor Function, Balance

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  • In 2004, infants who were fed Remedia, an Israeli formula brand completely lacking in Vitamin B1, were hospitalized with severe cardiac and neurological symptoms.
  • This highlights the importance of Vitamin B1 in normal motor development, and the consequences of infantile vitamin B1 deficiency, which left several infants disabled.
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency in infancy has long-term implications on gross and fine motor function and balance skills in childhood.

Infantile vitamin B1 deficiency (thiamine) deficiency has long-term consequences on child's health.

A new Tel Aviv University study found that infantile Vitamin B1 deficiency severely affected the motor function of preschoolers, who were fed faulty formula in the first year of their lives.


The retrospective study of children who received Remedia, an Israeli formula brand completely lacking in Vitamin B1, in 2004, was conducted by Prof. Aviva Fattal-Valevski of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine and the director of the Pediatric Neurology Unit at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, and her master's student Yael Harel.

In 2004, the impact of vitamin B1 deficiency was brought to light after infant deaths caused by the Remedia formula brand in Israel.

The infants were hospitalized with cardiac and neurological symptoms caused by the lack of vitamin B1, which is usually found in their formula.

"At first it was a mystery," said Prof. Fattal-Valevski. "It was like an epidemic. But after the grandmothers discussed the situation in the waiting room, it became clear that the infants, all under a year old, had consumed the same formula."

"After a food technician from the Health Department confirmed the total lack of vitamin B1 in the formula, we immediately provided the infants with supplements. Some recovered quickly, but three infants died and about 20 infants were left with severe disabilities and epilepsy." Prof. Fattal-Valevski added.


For the study, the development of 39 children, aged 5-6 years, who had been exposed to a thiamine-deficient formula as infants was followed.

The motor performance of the group was compared with 30 age-matched healthy children with unremarkable infant nutritional history.

The motor function was evaluated with the Movement Assessment Battery for Children and the Zuk Assessment.

The tests revealed statistically significant differences in gross and fine motor development between the exposed and unexposed groups.

The differences were with regards to balance-control functioning and fine motor skills.

Importance of Vitamins

"The body's capacity for storing Vitamin B1 is limited," said Prof. Fattal-Valevski. "Unlike vitamin B12, vitamin B1 is only stored in the body for three weeks. It needs to be frequently replenished. It is critical to be aware of how important this vitamin is for child development. Even healthy babies might be at risk for B1 deficiency. If your infant is suffering from virus after virus, you must intervene with extra vitamins. But it's a vicious cycle, because one of the first symptoms of lack of B1 in the system is an absence of appetite."

"We've proven that B1 deficiency in infancy has long-term implications on gross and fine motor function and balance skills in childhood," said Prof. Fattal-Valevski. "Our study emphasizes the importance of proper infant feeding and regulatory control of breast milk substitutes." Prof. Fattal-Valevski added.

In the next step, the researchers aim to focus on the link between infant B1 deficiency and later learning disabilities.

The study is published in Maternal and Child Nutrition.


  1. Aviva Fattal-Valevski et al. The effect of subclinical infantile thiamine deficiency on motor function in preschool children. Maternal and Child Nutrition; (2017) DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12397

Source: Medindia

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