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Severe thiamine deficiency, also known as beriberi, with its array of symptoms such as confusion, tingling and numbness, muscle weakness, unusual eye movements, and heart failure, is virtually unknown in Western societies where most refined grains are enriched with the B vitamins lost during processing. Thiamine and its partner B vitamins are removed through the kidneys, so people who use diuretic medications may be at risk for B vitamin deficiencies that could worsen their health.
The new study, published in Clinical Research in Cardiology, included nine people with chronic heart failure. All of the participants were being treated with diuretic medications to reduce the fluid build-up in the lungs associated with poor heart function. During the first phase of the study, they were assigned to take either 300 mg of thiamine or placebo each day for four weeks; during the second phase, the assignments were reversed for another four weeks. These phases were separated by six weeks with no thiamine.
The researchers found the following:
“This study suggests that thiamine supplementation has beneficial effects on cardiac function in patients with diuretic drugs for symptomatic chronic heart failure,” the study’s authors said. “Subclinical thiamine deficiency is probably an underestimated issue in these outpatients.”
Before adding supplements to a treatment plan, especially for those with a life-threatening condition, it’s important to consult with the treating doctor and to check on the safety of combining supplements with medication. This study suggests that people with heart failure may benefit from taking extra thiamine and most nutrition experts recommend taking a B-complex multivitamin when supplementing with a high dose of any one B. Here are some other supplements to consider:
(Clin Res Cardiol 2012;101:159–64)