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CFS Research: Difference In Blood Levels of Vitamin E


Senior Member
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research: Difference in Blood Levels of Vitamin E
Wednesday August 11, 2010


Research Brief

New research out of Japan suggests that abnormal fluctuations in vitamin E levels are linked to symptom flares and remissions in chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Researchers looked at vitamin E levels in serum (a fluid that can be extracted from blood) and found that they're lower overall in people with ME/CFS than in healthy controls. They also discovered that vitamin E levels are higher in ME/CFS patients during remission than when symptoms are more severe.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and researchers concluded that the fluctuating levels may be evidence that ME/CFS is linked to oxidative stress, and that an individual's current level of oxidative stress may be directly linked to symptom severity.

These findings are in line with several previous studies, which have lead some doctors to recommend anti-oxidant supplements for ME/CFS patients.


Heart Vessels. 2010 Jul;25(4):319-23. Epub 2010 Jul 31.

Fluctuation of serum vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) concentrations during exacerbation and remission phases in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Miwa K, Fujita M.

Department of Internal Medicine, Nanto Family and Community Medical Center, 577 Matsubara, Nanto, Toyama 939-1518, Japan. k-3wa@pm.ctt.ne.jp

The etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome remains unknown. Oxidative stress may be involved in its pathogenesis. Vitamin E is a major endogenous lipid-soluble antioxidative substance, and is consumed during the lipid peroxidation process. We studied a population comprising 27 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (10 men and 17 women, 29 +/- 6 years of age) and 27 age- and sex-matched control subjects. Serum vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) concentrations were determined and expressed as mg/g total lipids (total cholesterol and triglyceride) to evaluate oxidative stress. Serum alpha-tocopherol concentrations (mg/g lipids) were significantly (P < 0.001) lower in the patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (2.81 +/- 0.73) than in the control subjects (3.88 +/- 0.65). The patients with chronic fatigue syndrome were re-examined during a follow-up interval. After 8 +/- 2 months, 16 patients exhibited a status that warranted re-examination during remission of the symptoms at a regular visit to our hospital (Group 1), while the remaining 11 did not (Group 2). The serum alpha-tocopherol levels were significantly elevated during remission as compared with those at baseline in Group 1 (2.71 +/- 0.62 --> 3.24 +/- 0.83, P < 0.001). The levels did not significantly change after the interval in Group 2 (2.97 +/- 0.86 --> 2.85 +/- 0.73, not significant). In conclusion, serum alpha-tocopherol concentrations were significantly lower in the patients with chronic fatigue syndrome as compared with the control subjects, suggesting increased oxidative stress in the former. The low level of serum alpha-tocopherol was ameliorated during the remission phase as compared with the exacerbation phase in the patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, suggesting that increased oxidative stress may be involved in the pathogenesis of chronic fatigue syndrome and might also be directly related to the severity of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

PMID: 20676841 [PubMed - in process]


Senior Member
Thanks for bringing this up, shannah.

I'd be interested in the full-text if anyone has access. One of the interesting points here is that the researchers found 16/26 of the subjects had "remission" of their symptoms within 6-10 months of follow-up with no intervention. This is suspicious to me because it's much higher than almost anything I've encountered in life or in reading, even when researchers have followed more people for longer periods of time, e.g. years. So, it'll be interesting to see what the text says.

Also, for those interested in supplementing with Vitamin E, recognize it is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it accumulates in your body unlike other vitamins that get flushed out by your kidneys if you take too much. I don't remember the exact details searching my brain here but there was a large study of Vitamin E a few years ago for other purposes that found it increased rates of ?cancer surprisingly when they examined for adverse effects instead of preventing it so exercise caution.


Senior Member
Sth Australia
im suspicious of the study too.. for the same reason as Hope. Nearly half the patients in remission that short time later????? Doesnt sound like the CFS/ME i know.


Senior Member
I'm not understanding that too well - were they in remission as a result of additional vitamin E supplementation?


Senior Member
I'm not understanding that too well - were they in remission as a result of additional vitamin E supplementation?
No, there was no extra Vitamin E supplementation (that we are told about anyway). They just measured the levels in the individuals at different times.


Senior Member
Logan, Queensland, Australia

I have commented on this elsewhere on PR. I have known of vitamin E deficiency in CFS for over a decade. A (locally) well-known CFS doctor (Dr. John Whiting) routinely tests vit E levels. They are usually low, and in come patients they are so low as to be undetectable. So the research sounds right, but they may have some fatigued patients in the group, and some mono, as well as CFS. It would be nice if researchers were more careful with selection of patient cohorts. However, a more likely issue is that they are simply differentiating between acute flare-ups and improved periods - which means we have more vit E when feeling well, and less when in relapse/payback. One word of caution: always use a natural source of vitamin E if you want to take any. It is 100x more biochemically effective than synthetic E.