Thiamine deficiency in Gambian women of reproductive age

Megan W. Bourassa, Filomena Gomes, Kerry S. Jones, Albert Koulman, Andrew M. Prentice, Carla Cerami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Thiamine deficiency disorders are associated with a variety of clinical symptoms affecting the nervous and cardiovascular systems. There is growing recognition that thiamine deficiency can occur in populations well beyond the classical region of South Asia, and at-risk populations include those who receive a large proportion of their energy from polished white rice (or other low-thiamine staple foods) and with low dietary diversity. Reports of thiamine deficiency in West Africa over the last century have suggested that this has historically been an issue in this population, but in more recent decades, these reports have been limited to prison populations. To understand if thiamine deficiency might be an unrecognized problem in the communities of this region, erythrocyte samples collected during the wet and dry seasons from 226 women of reproductive age (mean age = 28 years old) were assessed for thiamine status by measuring the erythrocyte transketolase activity coefficient (ETKac). Overall, 35.8% of the sample was at high risk of thiamine deficiency (ETKac ≥ 1.25). Risk of thiamine deficiency was significantly higher in the wet (47.9%) compared with the dry season (22.9%) (P < 0.001). To our knowledge, this is the first report of biochemical thiamine deficiency in a free-living population in West Africa in the 21st century and suggests that further investigation is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-170
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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