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A Groundbreaking Study: Metabolic Features of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Robert K. Naviaux, MD co-authored a study with Eric Gordon, MD, Wayne Anderson, ND, and Neil Nathan, MD, titled “Metabolic Features of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”. The results, and their implications, were groundbreaking for the ME/CFS community.

This study of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) focused on the metabolomics in 45 CFS patients and 39 controls. It was able to determine a distinct chemical signature that shows conclusive evidence that CFS is an objective metabolic disorder.

This metabolic disorder affects 7 systems of the body (mitochondrial energy metabolism, immune function, GI function, microbiome, autonomic nervous system, neuroendocrine, and other brain functions), all connected within a network that is in constant communication. 

Any change to one system inherently affects the others. 

The cells of ME/CFS patients are under a disproportionate amount of stress and, in response, create a line of defense. This defense essentially creates a lock around the cells to keep their resources hidden from the “intruders”. This creates a negative effect for the patient in that they can’t use the cells resources either, and unfortunately, some pathogens can still figure out the code to get in.  

The data indicates that the metabolisms of patients diagnosed with CFS all change in the same way. “It is this cellular response to CFS-triggering traumas, and not the way the response is set in motion, which should define the illness.” [1] 

Another important distinction within the study was the difference of normal concentrations of metabolites between men and women. “Literally hundreds of metabolites are tuned to different concentrations in men and women” [1], with no correlation to testosterone and estrogen levels. There are hundreds of metabolites in our systems that are simply tuned to different concentrations depending on gender. 

To study metabolomics properly, an adequate number of age- and sex-matched controls is necessary, since there are also many metabolic changes that occur naturally during the aging process. 

Although this study was not focused on treatment, the results open up “a new window into the underlying biology of CFS that makes us very hopeful that effective treatments will be developed soon and tested in well-controlled clinical trials.” [1]

[1] Metabolomics Q&A for CFS 

You can find more details of the study here:

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