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Omega 3 Fish Oil EPA and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the Real Science

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Since the publication of a book called 'Beat Chronic Fatigue The Natural Way', many people are turning to the natural substance omega 3, and in particular pure ethyl EPA, to help treat the debilitating condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

What is chronic fatigue syndrome ?

We all get tired. Many of us have felt depressed at times. But the mysterious chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is not like the normal ups and downs we experience in everyday life. The early sign of this illness is a strong and noticeable fatigue that comes on suddenly and often comes and goes sometimes, it never stops. You sometimes feel too tired to do normal activities or are easily exhausted with no apparent reason. Unlike the mind fog of a serious hangover, to which researchers have compared CFS, the profound weakness of CFS does not go away with a few good nights of sleep. Instead, it slyly steals your energy and vigour over months and sometimes years.

Who gets chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) affects both men and women, and its incidence cuts across wide strata of age as well as racial and socio-economic groups. It was first described in the 1930s; CFS received a flurry of publicity in the mid-1980s when the syndrome was erroneously associated with the Epstein-Barr virus. In the early to mid-1990s it was being described as 'yuppie flu'.

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome:

muscle aches and pains, especially after physical exertion
feeling depressed and emotional
poor sleep, difficulty getting off to sleep, frequent wakings, and not feeling refreshed after sleep
nausea and loss of appetite
a recurrent sore throat, feeling of enlarged glands in the neck which come and go
running a slightly high temperature for no apparent reason
feeling of faintness and dizziness

Omega 3 fish oil EPA and chronic Fatigue syndrome

The most recent study that has been performed was published in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. In the study, doctors from London found that in the brains of people with chronic fatigue syndrome there are high levels of two key chemicals, choline and creatine.

Choline is important for controlling fat levels in brain cells while creatine provides energy.

The doctors said the findings suggested CFS patients had abnormal phospholipid metabolisms. Phospholipids are special types of fats which are an essential component of cells. They are protected by certain types of fatty acids.

The London doctors believed fatty acid supplements could help to restore the chemical imbalance in the brain and alleviate the symptoms of CFS. EPA, which is found in omega 3 fish oil supplements, may be particularly useful.

The leader of the study said: "This study suggests that if patients with CFS take a high-EPA fatty acid supplement, then this should have a beneficial action on the chemical imbalances in the brain which we have identified."

Since this study was published further advances have been made, and the findings released by a leading professor in the United Kingdom state clearly that he considers Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to be a genuine physical illness. The professor describes how he came to conclude that CFS could be successfully treated by supplementation with essential fatty acids, specifically ultra-pure EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and virgin evening primrose oil.

The professor describes the changes in the immune system seen with CFS, as a reduction in natural killer cell activity and a shift from TH1 cell activity toward increased TH2 cell activity, known as a type 2 immune response. He believes that this is best explained by the presence of a pre-existing, long-term, viral infection to which the immune system is reacting. Using MRI scanning to carry out neurospectroscopy examinations of people with CFS, in order to obtain information about the chemistry of the living brain, the professor demonstrated a clear difference between the brains of people with CFS and 'normal' volunteers; the results indicated a very significant change in the turnover of fatty acids in the cell membranes of CFS sufferers.

Essential fatty acids - linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha linolenic acid (omega-3) are known as such because they must be acquired from food and cannot be manufactured by the body. The professor explains how viruses can cause the symptoms of CFS by inhibiting a crucial enzyme in the chains that convert these essential fatty acids into other fatty acids required by the body, including GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), EPA and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This leads to a deficiency in these fatty acids. He believes the resulting lack of EFAs in the body leads to many of the symptoms familiar to CFS sufferers, including tiredness, poor immune response and painful joints.

The professor concluded by saying that by giving patients large amounts of GLA and EPA the effects of the virus can be circumvented and how CFS patients taking high-dose supplements reported improvements in symptoms within 12 weeks. Crucially, the supplement should be DHA-free, which means that the majority of fish oil supplements, which contain both EPA and DHA, are not suitable. The Professor also strongly believes that the type of DHA found in most fish oil supplements inhibits some of the beneficial actions of EPA.

Conclusion

Since both these sets of findings were released, more and more people are turning to high grade ethyl EPA fish oil to help with this debilitating condition. Whether this will lead to a mainstream treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, and whether it will work for all sufferers, remains to be seen. However, a large majority of people who are trying this as a form of treatment are reporting some very interesting and very good results.


By David McEvoy
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