Supplementation and dietary changes have 'limited effect' on chronic fatigue syndrome

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Chronic fatigue syndrome is mostly unaffected by dietary changes. ©iStock
Chronic fatigue syndrome is mostly unaffected by dietary changes. ©iStock
Supplementation and other dietary modifications have a largely limited effect on chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) symptoms, according to an Australian review.

The University of Wollongong review took into account 22 studies on the subject and found that despite positive outcomes in some of them (especially when D-ribose supplementation and omega-3 were involved), only limited dietary modifications were found useful in alleviating chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms”​.

The review also saw “no definitive dietary modification for alleviation of the symptoms for individuals with CFS”​. This was attributed to insufficient and inconsistent overall evidence across the studies, which were documented in original English-language papers that had been published between June 2014 and August 2016.

It further stated that “dietary intake patterns and poor vitamin or mineral status were not found to be associated with symptoms alleviation in the observational studies reviewed”​. At the same time, it was revealed that “the risk of chronic vitamin D deficiency mimicking CFS symptoms” ​was noted in two of the studies, while abnormal biomarkers resulting from an underlying pathological process were shown in one study to be responsible for CFS, and had little to no connection with inadequate nutritional intake.


Additionally, studies that used either single nutrient or polyn­utrient supplementation also displayed inconsistent results. In the case of the former, a study investigating the effects of probiotic supplementation on CFS did not measure participant compliance, which might have led to its inconclusive results.

In the case of the latter, “no statistically significant relationship between CFS symptoms and polynutrient supplementation​ was discovered, possibly because the supplements’ anti-inflammatory properties resulted in oxidative stress that may have interfered with CFS symptoms.

However, the animal studies assessed in the review provided a good precedent for more human studies to be conducted in this context, with “some encouraging significant results highlighted through polyphenol use in mice or rats displaying induced fatigue”​. Further studies on supplementation with isolated polyphenol compounds in humans were suggested, as regular dietary intake was deemed unlikely to produce the positive results observed in the animal studies.

Strengthen evidence

A positive correlation between dietary change and the alleviation of CFS symptoms was also observed when study subjects were placed on D-ribose supplementation, though the review cautioned that further investigation should be made as the quality rating identified a potential conflict of interest”​.

The review concluded that “further research surrounding the research question and data themes” ​was necessary, and that it should “focus on strengthening the level of evidence contributing to future research in this area to clarify and consolidate recommendations, as well as ensure the distribution of accurate and useful information at a population level”​.

Source: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

June 2017, volume 41

Role of dietary modification in alleviating chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms: a systematic review”

Authors: Kathryn Jones, Yasmine Probst

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