Since beriberi occurs primarily among populations where polished rice which is deficient in thiamine is used, a diet of thiamine rich foods should be given. Fleshy foods, meat, eggs, poultry, pork and liver are very good sources of thiamine. Amongst the vegetable source drybeans, peas, soybeans and peanuts are the good sources. Yeast is considered to be the best source of thiamine. Although the thiamine content in fruits and vegetable is comparatively low, they are able to supply the body’s daily requirement.
Therapy for wet and dry beri-beri consists of administration of therapeutic doses, of 5-10 mg of thiamine three times per day. In cases of cardiac involvement it is advisable to give 10-20 mg of thiamine diluted with glucose, intravenously. In addition to supplementation with other vitamins, a generous supply of high quality proteins from easily digested foods should be given.
The need for thiamine increases when the diet has a predominance of carbohydrates as in the case with Indian diets. The presence of fat in the diet reduces the need for this vitamin and hence fat is said to have thiamine sparing action.
Preventive measures consist of the following:
i. The use of whole cereals and avoidance of refined cereals. Now-a-days the Government has restricted the degree of polishing rice by law.
ii. Use of undermilled, parboiled, enriched and less polished rice.
iii. Increased consumption of pulses.
iv. Avoiding alkaline (cooking soda) medium and using neutral medium for cooking thiamine-rich foods.
v. Avoiding consumption of alcohol.