Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Heart failure tough on B vitamins

Heart Beat

Heart failure tough on B vitamins

Malnutrition is one of the many complications of advanced heart failure. It is the result of physical, chemical, and hormonal changes that dull the appetite and rev up metabolism. In addition, diuretics (water pills) can wash some nutrients out of the body. A survey of 100 Canadians hospitalized for heart failure showed that 27% had a deficiency of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and 38% were quite low on vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). The findings were published in the August 2009 Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Earlier studies have shown that up to one-third of people with heart failure have below-normal levels of vitamin B1 (thiamine) as well.

These three B vitamins are important for energy production and the formation of red blood cells. Deficiencies could be one cause of the lack of energy and anemia often associated with heart failure.

A standard multivitamin supplement generally supplies 100% of the daily recommended intake of all eight B vitamins — for a healthy person. It is possible that people with heart failure need extra B1, B2, and B6 to counter the effects of the disease, but that remains to be tested. Good food sources of B vitamins include ready-to-eat cereals, enriched grains, meat, poultry, fish, potatoes, bananas, lentils, garbanzos, soybeans and tempeh, liver and liver oil, brewer's yeast, and molasses. Marmite and Vegemite, pastes made from yeast extract that are popular in the United Kingdom and Australia, are very rich sources of B vitamins.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »