Name = Beriberi

Caption = A sufferer - Turn of the 20th century in southeast Asia
DiseasesDB = 14107
ICD10 = ICD10|E|51|1|e|50
ICD9 = ICD9|265.0
MedlinePlus =
eMedicineSubj = ped
eMedicineTopic = 229
eMedicine_mult = eMedicine2|med|221 | MeshID = D001602

Beriberi (pronounced "Berry-berry") is a nervous system ailment caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. Thiamine is involved in the breakdown of energy molecules such as glucose. It is also found on the membranes of neurons. Symptoms of Beriberi include severe lethargy and fatigue, together with complications affecting the cardiovascular, nervous, muscular, and gastrointestinal systems.


The origin of the word is from a Sinhalese phrase meaning "I cannot, I cannot", the word being doubled for emphasis. [ [ Beriberi, Information about Beriberi ] ]


Beriberi is caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1). Thiamine occurs naturally in unrefined cereals and fresh foods, particularly whole grain bread, fresh meat, legumes, green vegetables, fruit, and milk. Beriberi is therefore common in people whose diet excludes these particular types of nutrition.

Beriberi may be found in people whose diet consists mainly of polished white rice, which is very low in thiamine because the thiamine-bearing husk has been removed. It can also be seen in chronic alcoholics with an inadequate diet (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome), as well as being a rare side effect of gastric bypass surgery. If a baby is mainly fed on the milk of a mother who suffers from thiamine deficiency then that child may develop beriberi as well.

The disease was often found in Asian countries (especially in the 19th century and before), due to those countries' reliance on white rice as a staple food.

Symptoms and effects

Its symptoms include weight loss, emotional disturbances, impaired sensory perception (Wernicke's encephalopathy), weakness and pain in the limbs, and periods of irregular heart rate. Edema (swelling of bodily tissues) is common. In advanced cases, the disease may cause heart failure and death. It may also increase the amount of lactic acid and pyruvic acid within the blood.

* Wet beriberi affects the heart; it is sometimes fatal, as it causes a combination of heart failure and weakening of the capillary walls, which causes the peripheral tissues to become edematous.

* Dry beriberi causes wasting and partial paralysis resulting from damaged peripheral nerves. It is also referred to as "endemic neuritis".


Treatment for beriberi is with thiamine hydrochloride, either in tablet form or injection. A rapid and dramatic recovery within hours can be made when this is administered to patients, and their health can be improved within an hour of starting treatment. In emergency situations where concentrated thiamine supplements are unavailable, feeding the patient with a thiamine-rich diet (e.g. whole grain brown bread) will lead to recovery, though at a much slower rate. Additionally, administering glucose will provide the patient with a temporary boost, while their body recovers.


In Asia where polished white rice was the common staple food of the middle class, beriberi resulting from lack of vitamin B was endemic. In 1884, Takaki Kanehiro, a British-trained Japanese medical doctor of the Japanese Navy observed that beriberi was endemic among low ranking crew who often ate nothing but rice but not among crews of Western navies and officers who were entitled to a Western-style diet. Kanehiro initially believed that lack of protein was the chief cause of beriberi. With the support of Japanese navy, he experimented using crews of two battleships, one crew was fed only white rice, while the other was fed a diet of meat, fish, barley, rice, and beans. The group that ate only white rice documented 161 crew with beriberi and 25 deaths, while the latter group had only 14 cases of beriberi and no deaths. This convinced Kanehiro and the Japanese Navy that diet was the cause of beriberi. This was confirmed in 1897, when Christiaan Eijkman discovered that feeding unpolished rice instead of the polished variety to chickens helped to prevent beriberi in the chickens. The following year, Frederick Hopkins postulated that some foods contained "accessory factors"—in addition to proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etcetera—that were necessary for the functions of the human body.Jack Challem (1997). [ "The Past, Present and Future of Vitamins"] ]

Christiaan Eijkman, a Dutch physician and pathologist, demonstrated that beriberi is caused by poor diet. His work led to the discovery of vitamins. Together with Sir Frederick Hopkins, he was awarded the 1929 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery.



General references

* [ Diagnosing Beriberi in Emergency Situations] , by Prof Mike Golden, Aberdeen University. (n.d.)


* [ Jeb Sprague and Eunida Alexandra. Haiti: Mysterious Prison Ailment Traced to U.S. Rice] - Inter Press Service (IPS). 17 January 2007.


External links

* [ : beriberi]
* [ Medical Encyclopedia] , Medline, National Institutes of Health.
* [ L Arturo Batres, MD.]

ee also

* Edward Bright Vedder

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • BÉRIBÉRI — Affection carentielle due au déficit en thiamine (ou vitamine B1), apparaissant surtout chez les populations dont l’aliment de base est le riz décortiqué. Les manifestations essentielles sont neurologiques (polynévrite) et cardiologiques (tableau …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • beriberi — m. nutric. Enfermedad causada por un déficit de vitamina B1 en la dieta; es frecuente en Extremo Oriente y África, y en las personas alcohólicas o las que están sometidas a diálisis peritoneal o hemodiálisis. Los síntomas de la enfermedad afectan …   Diccionario médico

  • Beriberi — Béribéri Le béribéri est une maladie causée par un déficit en vitamine B1 (malnutrition), qui provoque une insuffisance cardiaque et des troubles neurologiques. Son nom provient du cinghalais la langue de la population majoritaire du Sri Lanka et …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Beriberi — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Sinónimos Déficit de Vitamina B1 Neuropatía Nutricional Polineuritis Endémica Déficit de Tatiataminita Código CIE 9: 265.0 Beriberi es una enfermedad producida por carencia de vitamina B1 (tiamina), presenta dos… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Beriberi — Sf (Vitamin Mangelkrankheit, die die Europäer im 16. Jh. auf Ceylon kennenlernten) per. Wortschatz fach. (16. Jh.) Entlehnung. Singhal. beri bedeutet Schwäche , die Verdoppelung verstärkt den Inhalt (also große Schwäche ).    Ebenso nndl.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Beriberi — Be ri*be ri, n. [Singhalese beri weakness.] An acute disease occurring in India, characterized by multiple inflammatory changes in the nerves, producing great muscular debility, a painful rigidity of the limbs, and cachexy. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Beribĕri — (d.i. Schaf, lat. Beriberis, franz. Barbiers), in OIndien, bes. auf Ceylon u. der Küste von Malabar endemische, erst bei mannbaren Individuen auftretende, aus feuchtem Klima, bei anhaltend nasser Witterung entspringende, chronische, langwierige… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Beriberi — Beriberi, eine Krankheit, die endemisch in Indien, besonders auf Malabar und Ceylon, auch in Australien, Brasilien, Japan, (Kak ke), aber fast nur an den Küsten vorkommt. Ihre wesentlichen Symptome bestehen in Mattigkeit, von den untern… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Beriberi — Beriberi, bei den Japanern Kak ke, eigentümliche, mit Lähmungen, Atmungsbeschwerden und Wasseransammlung verbundene trop. Krankheit (endemisch in Japan, Australien, Indien), schwer heilbar. – Vgl. Weintraub (1896), Wright (engl., 1903),… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Beriberi — Beriberi, endemische Krankheit in Ostindien; sie tödtet in längerer oder ganz kurzer Frist und befällt die Eingeborenen und akklimatisirten Fremden während der Abnahme des Moussons; wird als dem Veitstanz ähnlich beschrieben …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Beriberi — ⇒ Thiamin …   Deutsch wörterbuch der biologie

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