BY Oliver Wright, Health Correspondent
Doctors believe that they may have found the first scientific evidence for chronic fatigue syndrome, which affects more than 150,000 people in Britain.
A team of researchers at Hammersmith Hospital, London, scanned the brains of sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or “yuppie flu,” and found enlarged gaps in fatty acids that were not present in non-sufferers.
They have been backed by similar findings in Scotland and Japan.
They found that when sufferers were later treated with fish oil supplements the gaps in the brain closed and they started to feel better.
CFS leaves patients with flu-like symptoms of physical and mental exhaustion which can last for years. Often people are so badly affected that they can be bed-ridden. So far there has been no medical explanation and some experts have claimed that the condition does not really exist.
Researchers found that sufferers were low in a group of essential fatty acids, known as EPAs, high levels of which are found particularly in fish. Basant Puri, a neuro-psychiatrist at Hammersmith, said: “It was these natural gaps that we found to be enlarged in people with CFS. We have found what appears to be a cause for CFS but we don’t know why people get it.”
Action for ME, which represents sufferers of the illness, said that the research was welcome but it believed that there may be several causes. Chris Clark, the charity’s chief executive, said: “All the evidence so far suggests that there is no single cause.”
Copyright 2003 Times Newspapers Ltd.