Beriberi epidemiology and demographics

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: ; Abdelrahman Ibrahim Abushouk, MD[2]


No clear data are available on the incidence and prevalence of beriberi; however, it is generally more common in countries with excess white rice consumption and unbalanced food supply.

Epidemiology and Demographics


  • No clear data are available on the incidence rate of beriberi.


  • Due to the absence of clear data on beriberi prevalence in children, the World Health Organization suggested that infant mortality curves can reflect thiamine deficiency in infants.[1]
  • The main reason an exact prevalence rate cannot be identified is that different studies used different blood thiamine concentration cutoffs.[2]


  • The infantile form of beriberi occurs in infants under one year of age: Cardiac form (1 to 3 months), aphonic (4 to 6 months), and pseudomeningitic (7 to 9 months).


  • There is no racial predilection to beriberi.


  • Beriberi affects men and women equally. However, pregnant women may be at risk.


  • The majority of beriberi cases are reported in geographical regions with inadequate dietary intake (developing countries). In developed countries, it may occur in individuals with chronic illness or alcoholism.[3]


  1. Luxemburger C, White NJ, ter Kuile F, Singh HM, Allier-Frachon I, Ohn M; et al. (2003). "Beri-beri: the major cause of infant mortality in Karen refugees". Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 97 (2): 251–5. doi:10.1016/s0035-9203(03)90134-9. PMID 14584386.
  2. Whitfield KC, Smith G, Chamnan C, Karakochuk CD, Sophonneary P, Kuong K; et al. (2017). "High prevalence of thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency in early childhood among a nationally representative sample of Cambodian women of childbearing age and their children". PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 11 (9): e0005814. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0005814. PMC 5600402. PMID 28873391.
  3. Whitfield KC, Bourassa MW, Adamolekun B, Bergeron G, Bettendorff L, Brown KH; et al. (2018). "Thiamine deficiency disorders: diagnosis, prevalence, and a roadmap for global control programs". Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1430 (1): 3–43. doi:10.1111/nyas.13919. PMC 6392124. PMID 30151974.

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