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Multivitamin supplementation

Scientific research often tends to focus on the complicated – fancy techniques, fancy measurements, and (sometimes) fanciful speculation. So, it’s refreshing to see a simple experiment for a change.

With funding from the Ministry of Science in Serbia, researchers at the Clinic for Infectious Diseases, University of Novi Sad recruited 38 women with CFS (Fukuda 1994) who agreed to take a multivitamin mineral supplement for 2 months. The supplement was Supradyn, chosen for its wide availability, its affordability (the women bought it themselves) and its composition (the ingredients are listed in the research report, which is free to download). Before and after treatment, women completed symptom-based questionnaires, and had the activity of an antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD) measured from blood samples. SOD is a marker of ‘oxidative stress’ which can damage cells and has been implicated in cardiovascular diseases and in the ageing process.

After 2 months of multivitamins, SOD activity levels increased from 71 to 314 mEq, a positive finding (higher SOD activity is associated with lower oxidative stress). Also, the women reported significant improvements in some specific symptoms – fatigue, sleep, autonomic nervous system problems and headaches – but not in overall health-related quality of life.

Although this was an uncontrolled study (there was no group taking a sham vitamin to control for placebo and other effects), the results are interesting nevertheless, and back-up the findings of ME charity surveys which show that significant numbers of people with ME/CFS benefit from vitamin supplements. The authors themselves say, “Since immune activation and oxidative stress are now well documented…we believe this type of supplementation could be a safe addition to other therapeutic options”.

 [photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]