Vitamins that may be helpful
People with CHF have insufficient oxygenation of the heart, which can damage the heart
muscle. Such damage may be reduced by taking
L-carnitine supplements.5 L-carnitine is a natural substance made from the amino acids, lysine and methionine. Levels of L-carnitine are low in people
with CHF;6 therefore, many doctors recommend that those with CHF take 500 mg of
L-carnitine two to three times per day.
Most L-carnitine/CHF research has used a modified form of the supplement called propionyl-L-carnitine (PC). In one double-blind trial,
people using 500 mg of PC per day had a 26% increase in exercise capacity after six
months.7 In double-blind research, other indices of heart function have also
improved after taking 1 gram of PC twice per day.8 It remains unclear whether
propionyl-L-carnitine has unique advantages over L-carnitine, as limited research in animals
and humans has also shown very promising effects of the more common
Magnesium deficiency frequently occurs in
people with CHF, and such a deficiency may lead to heart arrhythmias. Magnesium supplements have reduced
the risk of these arrhythmias.10 People with CHF are often given drugs that deplete
both magnesium and potassium; a deficiency of
either of these minerals may lead to an arrhythmia.11 Many doctors suggest
magnesium supplements of 300 mg per day.
Whole fruit and fruit and vegetable juice, which are high in
potassium, are also recommended by some doctors; however, this dietary change should be
discussed with a healthcare provider, because several drugs given to people with CHF may
actually cause retention of potassium, making dietary potassium, even from fruit,
Taurine, an amino acid, helps increase the
force and effectiveness of heart-muscle contractions. Research (some double-blind) has shown
that taurine helps people with CHF.12 13 14 15
Most doctors suggest taking 2 grams three times per day.
As is true for several other heart conditions,
coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) has been reported to help people with CHF,16 17
sometimes dramatically.18 Positive effects have been confirmed in double-blind
research19 and in an overall analysis of eight controlled trials.20
However, some double-blind trials have reported modest21 or no
improvement22 23 24 in exercise capacity or overall quality
of life. Most CoQ10 research used 90–200 mg per day. The beneficial effects of CoQ10 may
not be seen until after several months of treatment. Discontinuation of CoQ10 supplementation
in people with CHF has resulted in severe relapses and should only be attempted under the
supervision of a doctor.25
The body needs arginine, another amino
acid, to make nitric oxide, which increases blood flow. This process is impaired in people
with CHF. Arginine supplementation (5.6–12.6 grams per day) has been used successfully
in double-blind trials to treat CHF.26 A double-blind trial has also found that
arginine supplementation (5 grams three times daily) improves kidney function in people with
For people with congestive heart failure, intravenous injections of creatine have been found to improve heart function;
oral supplementation has not been effective, though it does improve skeletal muscle
In a preliminary study, blood levels of
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) were found to be lower in people with CHF than in people
without the disease. The lowered blood levels of DHEA among these people was proportional to
the severity of their disease.30 However, there is no evidence that DHEA
supplementation can prevent or reverse CHF.
In a double-blind study of people with established heart disease or diabetes, participants who took 400 IU of vitamin E per day for an average of 4.5 years
developed heart failure significantly more often than did those taking a placebo.31
Hospitalizations for heart failure occurred in 5.8% of those in the vitamin E group, compared
with 4.2% of those in the placebo group, a 38.1% increase. Considering that some other studies
have shown a beneficial effect of vitamin E against heart disease, the results of this study
are difficult to interpret. Nevertheless, individuals with heart disease or diabetes should
consult their doctor before taking vitamin E.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
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