Doctor Holding Heart

5 Little Heart Nutrients That Make a Big Difference

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Doctor Holding HeartCongestive heart failure affects 1 out of 100 people aged 65 and older. It is a chronic condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body, causing fluid to back up in other areas like the liver, lungs, ankles and gastrointestinal tract.

Many medical experts now believe that heart failure is associated with neurological/hormonal abnormalities, as well as inflammation and oxidative stress. Fortunately, several micronutrients (nutrients needed only in small amounts — generally 100 mg or less — for normal body function) have antioxidant capabilities and may also be involved in neuro-hormonal signaling. And a growing number of studies are starting to show that certain micronutrients — like thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, selenium and zinc — may actually have a role in preventing heart failure.[1]


Thiamine deficiencies have been observed in patients with heart failure.[2]

In one trial, 30 patients undergoing treatment for heart failure were randomized to receive either thiamine (100 mg twice a day) or placebo. After seven days, researchers observed significant improvement in thiamine levels, as well as a significant increase in left ventricular ejection fraction — a measurement of the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time it contracts.[3]

Riboflavin and Pyridoxine

In one study, levels of these two B vitamins were measured in 100 patients admitted into the hospital for heart failure. The percentage of patients with riboflavin and pyridoxine deficiencies was significantly higher in the people with heart failure versus the controls.[4]

Selenium, Zinc and (Too Much) Copper

Severe selenium deficiencies have already been widely accepted as a cause of reversible heart failure — or a condition called Keshan Disease.[5]

But many studies have also suggested that milder deficiencies in selenium are linked to heart failure. In addition, observational studies show that patients with heart failure tend to have lower levels of selenium and zinc, and higher levels of copper compared to people without heart failure.

One report found that, in 64 patients with heart failure, those who died or required a hospital stay for the condition during a 12-month follow-up had significantly higher copper levels than those who did not.[6]

How to Get These Important Heart Nutrients

The best way to get these important heart-protective micronutrients is to eat a healthy diet rich in various fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The following foods are the best sources of the nutrients mentioned above:

Thiamine: asparagus, avocado, egg yolks, fish, green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, peas, spinach, wheat germ and whole grains

Riboflavin: mackerel, almonds, spinach and dairy

Pyridoxine: fish, green/red peppers, turkey, nuts, chicken and wheat bran

Selenium: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, fish, poultry, eggs, mushroom, onions and whole grains

Zinc: oysters, shellfish, wheat germ, wheat bran, nuts and pumpkin seeds

Of course, you can also get these nutrients through supplementation. Most high-quality multivitamins contain adequate amounts of these nutrients, but when checking labels, be sure your multi contains the following dosages:

  • Thiamine: 50 mg
  • Riboflavin: 50 mg
  • Pyridoxine: 50 mg
  • Selenium: 55 mcg
  • Zinc: 20 mg

Also, be sure it does not contain more than 2 mg of copper, as too much can cause toxicity and heart problems as was discovered in the previously mentioned study.

[1] McKeag N et al. The Role of Micronutrients in Heart Failure. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 June; 112(6): 870-86.

[2] Mendoza CE et al. Reversal of refractory congestive heart failure after thiamine supplementation: Report of a case and review of literature. J Cardiovasc Phamacol Ther. 2003; 8(4): 313-16.

[3] Shimon I et al. Improve left ventricular function after thiamine supplementation in patients with congestive heart failure receiving long-term furosemide therapy. Am J Med. 1995; 98(5): 485-90.

[4] Keith ME et al. B-vitamin deficiency in hospitalized patients with heart failure. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009; 109(8): 1406-10.

[5] Ge K and Yang G. The epidemiology of selenium deficiency in the etiological study of endemic diseases in China. Am J Clin Nutr. 1993; 57(2 suppl): 259S-263S.

[6] Malek F et al. Difference of baseline serum copper levels between groups of patients with different one year mortality and morbidity and chronic heart failure. Cent Eur J Public Health. 2003; 11(4): 198-201.

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