Researchers at the Gottfries Clinic, affiliated with the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Gothenburg University in Sweden recently published in the journal PLoS One that therapy based on vitamin B12 and folic acid can improve to some extent the overall health status of patients with chronic conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and fibromyalgia. The study is entitled “Response to vitamin B12 and folic Acid in myalgic encephalomyelitis and fibromyalgia.”
ME, which is also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a complex disorder characterized by extreme, remitting/relapsing fatigue that interferes with a person’s well-being and is not relieved by rest or recovery. Other symptoms include post-exertional malaise, muscle and/or joint pain, headaches, loss of memory or concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes and unrefreshing sleep.
ME shares features with fibromyalgia, a medical disorder characterized by widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, stiffness and numbness in certain parts of the body, headaches, sleep disorder and mood alterations. Both disorders can affect people’s ability to conduct simple daily tasks, compromising their quality of life. Women are usually more affected than men.
Vitamin B12 and folic acid are known to be important factors to maintain a good health status and ME patients have been reported to positively respond to frequent vitamin B12 injections combined with oral folic acid. In the study, researchers assessed 38 ME patients with or without fibromyalgia who received B12 injections at least once a week for a period of six months up to several years. Patients were grouped into good (15 patients) and mild (23 patients) responders for B12/folic acid therapy. 80% of the good responders had only ME, whereas 52% of the mild responders had ME and fibromyalgia.
Researchers found that good responders had received more B12 injections with a higher dose and for a longer period of time, as well as a higher daily amount of oral folic acid. Good responders reported not using strong analgesics to manage their disease symptoms, whereas 70% of the mild responders used analgesics like opioids on a daily basis and still reported more pain than good responders. Fibromyalgia patients were found to be more likely to find relief from strong analgesics, but the team suggests that opioid analgesics may negatively interfere with B12/folic acid treatment. Good responders were also found to be more often under treatment with thyroid hormones, suggesting that this treatment could perhaps also contribute to the positive effect of B12/folic acid therapy. Good responders considered their health status “very much” or “much” improved, while mild responders rated it as “much” or “minimally” improved.
The research team concluded that the dose-response relationship and long-lasting effects of high-concentrated B12 injections and a daily dose of oral folic acid indicates an overall positive health response in a subset of patients with ME/fibromyalgia. Researchers suggest that analgesic use and co-existing thyroid dysfunction should be taken into account when designing clinical trials for ME and fibromyalgia patients.