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B Complex and the Weak Heart

By William Brady, MD

Summary: William Brady was a medical doctor who wrote a popular syndicated newspaper column in the 1940s and '50s. In this article from 1947, Dr. Brady discusses the importance of the B-complex vitamins—specifically thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacinamide (B3)—to both heart health and proper carbohydrate metabolism. In multiple studies conducted at the time, he notes, vitamin B supplementation had been shown to reduce or eliminate the need for exogenous insulin in diabetics, while the link between vitamin B deficiency and heart disease had been known since all the way back in the 1920s, thanks to the work of pioneering nutrition researcher Sir Dr. Robert McCarrison. Astoundingly, medicine still fails today to grasp the importance of B vitamins to proper heart function, while both conventional and alternative doctors remain woefully ignorant of Dr. McCarrison's remarkable and still groundbreaking research. From the Waterloo Daily Courier, 1947.

[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]

B Complex and the Weak Heart

That the vitamin B complex—especially B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin)—plays a physiological role in the normal metabolism or utilization of carbohydrate food (starch or sugar) in the healthy person is well known, and numerous investigators have found that an optimal daily intake (3 or 4 times the minimum daily requirement) of B complex so improves carbohydrate metabolism in diabetics that some patients may keep sugar-free with less insulin than they [normally] require if they supplement their restricted diet with B complex. In a few cases, as reported here recently, patients remain sugar free without taking any insulin after they have had an optimal daily intake of B complex for several weeks.

In the booklet Training for Diabetes (copy for ten cents and stamped self-addressed envelope), you will find more about the importance of an adequate intake of vitamins. [Note: Training for Diabetes is no longer in print. Its reference here has been retained for historical purposes only.]

From time to time, I have extolled vitamin B complex as a real heart tonic, to be taken with digitalis if your physician [currently] prescribes digitalis and/or for a long while after digitalis is discontinued. In any case there can be no objection to taking an optimal daily ration of B complex every day in the year. It is food, not medicine—food that is essential for the normal functioning of the heart.

In his monograph Studies in Deficiency Diseasepublished in London in 1921 and reproduced by Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, Milwaukee, in 1945—Sir Robert McCarrison remarked:

“The observations recorded in this chapter [on atrophy and weakness of heart, decrease in size, overfilling or engorgement of veins, and the condition known as effort syndrome—during the war this condition, characterized by breathlessness, giddiness, a sense of fatigue, palpitation or vague pain in the heart region, was often called neurocirculatory asthenia] have a distinct interest for cardiologists [physicians who study and give special attention to heart diseases]. The former condition [effort syndrome] is not infrequently associated with faulty feeding, especially in schoolboys, undergraduates, and young soldiers who indulge in much violent exercise...The circumstances under which these cardiac disorders arise suggest that malnutrition, and especially vitamin deficiency, may play a determining part in their production.”

In this classic book, McCarrison emphasizes the inadequate supply of "vitamin A" and "vitamin B," but vitamin A had not been distinguished from vitamin D at the time the book was published (McCollum and his associates in Baltimore cleared up that confusion a year or so later), and what McCarrison called vitamin B was probably a group of the several vitamins now known as the B complex, of which the most important are B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), and niacinamide [B3]. But the significant point is that the British medical officer who discovered and told the world about the unparalleled health, physical development, vigor, and longevity of the people of the Hunza Valley in the Himalayas—in the extreme northern state of Kashmir, India—recognized more than a quarter of a century ago that vitamin deficiencies may “play a determining part” in the production of common heart troubles.

By William Brady, MD. Waterloo Daily Courier, September 11, 1947, Waterloo, Iowa.