British scientists report that low levels of magnesium may play a part in this illness of unknown cause. Although it is unclear whether magnesium injections reported improvements in their condition. The findings were published in the March 30 issue of “The Lancet” a renowned British medical journal.
The studies were conducted by Dr Michael J. Campbell, a medical statistician at Southampton General Hospital. Ivan M. Cox, a medical student at the University of Southampton and Dr David Dowson, a Southampton physician.
“This study shows a dramatic improvement in a small group of people with this illness, but it is too soon to say that this is an appropriate treatment that will be of help to the vast majority of patients,” said Dr. Jay A. Levy, a professor of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, who has been searching for a possible viral cause of the disease.
Chronic fatigue patients usually complain about malaise lasting several months or years and nonspecific flu-like symptoms, including headaches, fever and muscle pain. They also suffer from an inability to think clearly, irritability and depression.
The researchers said they had decided to explore magnesium levels in patients with chronic fatigue because malabsorption of magnesium had been associated with lethargy and weakness. They did a case study and found that 20 patients suffering from chronic fatigue had slightly lower red-cell magnesium concentrations than did 20 healthy subjects matched for age, sex and social class.
In a clinical trial involving 32 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, 15 patients were randomly given intramuscular injections of magnesium sulfate every week for six weeks and 17 were given shots of water.
The patients were not aware of which treatment they were receiving. Before and after the treatment, patients completed a questionnaire asking about their energy levels, pain, perception, sleep patterns, sense of social isolation, emotional reactions and physical mobility.
Twelve of the 15 patients treated with the magnesium said they had benefited and reported higher energy levels, better emotional states and less pain: just three patients who received the dummy shots claimed any improvement.
Yet to be determined is why magnesium levels were so low in these patients and if this is the case in the majority of chronic fatigue patients. Doctors have only recently started to take chronic fatigue syndrome seriously after years of dismissing it as little more than a figment of a patient’s imagination.