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Thiamine deficiency in the bereaved after cancer-related spousal loss

  • Hideki Onishi (a1), Nozomu Uchida (a2), Takao Takahashi (a3), Daisuke Furuya (a4), Yasuhiro Ebihara (a5), Izumi Sato (a6), Hiroshi Ito (a7) and Mayumi Ishida (a1)...



Thiamine deficiency (TD) is recognized in various kinds of disease with associated loss of appetite including cancer. However, it has not been recognized to date in bereaved partners after spousal loss from cancer.


From a series of bereaved partners who lost a spouse to cancer, we report on those who developed TD after bereavement.


Case 1 was a 57-year-old woman who sought consultation at our “bereavement clinic.” Her husband had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer one year earlier and had died one month previously. At the first visit, she was observed to suffer depression, anxiety, and decreased appetite. Neurological, blood, and biochemical examinations did not reveal any noteworthy findings. She was diagnosed with uncomplicated bereavement. Detailed examination revealed that her appetite had been markedly decreased for approximately five weeks. The diagnosis of TD was supported by her abnormally low serum thiamine level. Case 2 was a bereaved 73-year-old male who had lost his wife to hypopharyngeal cancer one month previously after a five-year illness. He had shown a lack of energy for the month preceding his wife's death, but because there was no improvement after her death, his family recommended he seek consultation at our “bereavement clinic.” He was suffering from major depressive disorder. Detailed examination revealed that his appetite had been decreased for more than two weeks. Again, the diagnosis of TD was supported by his abnormally low serum thiamine level.

Significance of results

These reports demonstrate that there is a possibility that bereaved could develop TD after the loss of a loved one. TD should be considered whenever there is a loss of appetite lasting for more than 2 weeks, and medical staff should pay careful attention to the physical condition of the bereaved to prevent complications because of TD.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Hideki Onishi, Department of Psycho-oncology, Saitama Medical University International Medical Center, 1397-1 Yamane, Hidaka City, Saitama 350-1298, Japan. Email:


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