"Our study is unique because it is the first to look at patients withheart failure with a combination of micronutrients. Previous studies haveenrolled elderly individuals who were otherwise fairly well, or have usedone, or rarely, two micronutrients (usually vitamins) combined," saidlead researcher Dr Klaus Witte, of the Castle Hill Hospital in Hull, UK.
Heart failure arises when the heart muscle becomes so weak that it can nolonger pump blood around the body, and currently afflicts about 14 millionpeople in Europe. This is forecast to increase to 30 million by 2020.
The researchers enrolled 30 elderly patients with stable heart failure who were randomised to receive micronutrient capsules or a placebo. The capsules contained a high-dose combination of multivitamins along with zinc, copper, selenium, calcium, magnesium and coenzyme-Q10.
All minerals were given in doses less than the recommended daily intake(RDI). The doses of vitamins were in excess of the RDI, but never greaterthan the upper safe limit for total daily intake.
After an average 295 days the patients given the micronutrients displayed a5 per cent improvement in heart function and a 10 per cent improvementin quality of life (QoL) scores, report the scientists in the EuropeanHeart Journal (vol 26, no 21, pp 2238-2244).
Heart health was defined by left ventricle pumping ability, while the QoLscore depended on many factors including quality of sleep, daytimeconcentration levels, and exercise capacity.
Patients with CHF can have poorer diets for numerous reasons not leastbecause they are less able to go out and buy food regularly, suggested theresearchers.
"They may also use their antioxidant and other vitamins stores morerapidly than healthy individuals as the body copes with the heart failure," said Witte.
While the exact role of each micronutrient is not known, the researcherssuggested that single nutrient tests might be counter-productive. Dr Wittetold NutraIngredients.com: "One of the problems with single agentsupplements is that they might just expose deficiencies elsewhere in what is likely a complex series of interactions between micronutrients."
The Study on Heartfailure Awareness and Perception in Europe (SHAPE) reported that 40 per centof people with CHF would die within one year of their first hospitalisation,and 67 per cent of patients would prefer to improve their QoL than livelonger.
The authors acknowledged the limitations of the study, both in the size ofthe sample population and the length of time of the follow-up period, andadmitted significant further research is required.
Dr Witte also stressed that micronutrient supplements were unlikely to benefit healthy people with a healthy diet.
Despite his opinion, often concurred by other scientists, sales of supplements continue to rise. Multivitamin sales in the UK have grown about 4 per cent between 2002 and 2004.