To date, as many as 4 million Americans are suffering from the debilitating effects of chronic fatigue syndrome.1
After decades of research, doctors remain puzzled as to how to treat this mysterious condition that involves unexplainable, extreme fatigue.2 Unfortunately, there are no pharmaceuticals to treat chronic fatigue syndrome other than sleeping pills and antidepressants, which do not resolve the problem.3
Frustrated by a lack of treatment options, an international team of researchers has focused their attention on a group of unique molecules called roburins, which are derived from oak wood.4
Roburin-rich oak wood extract has shown tremendous promise in managing a cluster of the symptoms that define chronic fatigue syndrome.
Evidence suggests that roburins are responsible for improving the functioning of our cellular ribosomes.5 Located in nearly every cell in the body, ribosomes are the sites of protein production and are intimately involved in the function of every tissue, organ, and system.6-8
The science of “ribosomal biogenesis” is now capturing the interest of scientists as a potential method for improving energy and biological function in the aging body. 5
Hope From The Oak
Determined scientists at several research centers have discovered unique compounds in oak wood that are proving to be an effective therapy in treating chronic fatigue.
Humans have been exposed to oak wood extracts for as long as they have been storing alcoholic beverages in aged oak barrels.5 This practice was originally adopted because of the preservative effects of fresh oak on new wines and spirits, but it has continued because of the unique flavor and character the oak provides to the aging liquor.
As the roburin molecules have been isolated and analyzed in modern laboratories, they have become available for use in animal and human studies aimed at transferring some of the oak’s resilience and stress resistance to humans.
Roburins In The Human Body
Two major human studies demonstrate the potential of roburins for mitigating chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.
In the first study, researchers were interested in understanding how roburin molecules were distributed and absorbed, as well as their compatibility in the human body.5 Following five days of oral supplementation with roburin-rich oak wood extract-three capsules of a proprietary, patented extract called Robuvit®-the scientists found a 100% increase in plasma total phenols (a general measure of absorption of molecules in this class), as well as the presence of roburin breakdown products (metabolites) in urine of healthy volunteers.
Since roburins are found only in oak wood,4 the data demonstrated vigorous absorption and conversion of roburins into substances including urolithins and ellagic acid, which are known to have potent biological activities.9
This study also revealed that the oak wood roburins trigger a complex set of biological events in the body. Using a sophisticated technology that measures changes in gene expression, the researchers were able to show that blood serum from supplemented people in the study may beneficially alter the expression of several genes in human cells in culture.5
Among the most consistent changes in gene expression induced by the serum from oak wood extract in supplemented patients had to do with the activities of ribosomes, the ultramicroscopic cellular organelles that are responsible for the “translation” of genes in DNA into specific proteins.5 Long regarded as simply tiny protein-manufacturing plants, ribosomes are now emerging as essential in the maintenance of normal cellular functions, and as key players in the science of “systemic aging” and disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome.
What You Need to Know: Treating Chronic Fatigue With Oak Wood Extract
- Chronic fatigue syndrome affects as many as 4 million Americans, but no clear-cut cause has yet been identified, and no effective treatment is available.
- A novel extract of the French oak tree, Quercus robur, contains compounds called roburins that, under the influence of human intestinal organisms, are converted into bioactive molecules called urolithins.
- This oak wood extract provides support for ribosomes, the tiny cellular factories responsible for accurately producing structural and functional proteins everywhere in the body.
- Ribosomal dysfunction has been implicated in chronic fatigue syndrome, so the ribosomal support properties of oak wood extract are of great interest to scientists.
- Research has shown that oak wood extract rich in roburins (Robuvit®) significantly improves symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome in human patients after three months of supplementation.
- Oak wood extract demonstrates a unique, systems-level approach to fighting this previously untreatable condition.
Roburins And Chronic Fatigue
The clinical impact of roburin-rich oak wood extract was made evident by a second important human study, this one conducted among patients with known chronic fatigue syndrome. In the study, adults with at least five primary chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms were treated with 200 mg/day of Robuvit® oak wood extract for a minimum of six months.3 A control group that did not use the supplement was also established among patients with the same chronic fatigue symptoms. The scientists found that oak wood extract was productive in alleviating many of the most troubling symptoms of chronic fatigue.
Among those who used the oak wood extract, there were significant reductions for a multitude of key symptoms of chronic fatigue, including:
- 18% reduction in weakness and exhaustion,
- 44% reduction in unrefreshing sleep,
- 29% reduction in short-term memory impairment,
- 63% reduction in muscle pain,
- 51% reduction in joint pain,
- 33% reduction in headaches, and
- 47% reduction in tender lymph nodes in the armpit and neck.3
Additionally, impressive reductions from baseline were also found in most secondary symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, including:
- 51% reduction in sensitivity to noise, foods, medications, and chemicals,
- 38% reduction in dizziness,
- 58% reduction in depression,
- 49% reduction in mood swings,
- 40% reduction in weight fluctuation,
- 24% reduction in alcohol intolerance,
- 39% reduction in allergies, and
- 29% reduction in visual disturbances.
There were no significant changes from baseline in all of these parameters for the patient group not taking the oak wood extract.3 These weren’t all of the changes, though. On a standardized mood scale, supplemented subjects had significant increases in their scores on positive items including feeling active, happy, peppy, caring, calm, and loving, along with significant reductions in negative items such as feeling gloomy, fed-up, grouchy, sad, or tired. In fact, the overall mood evaluation score in supplemented subjects rose from an average of -6.93 at baseline to +4.32 at six months. For controls, the average score at baseline was -6.5 and rose only to -3.4 at six months.3
In those with chronic fatigue syndrome, scientists have found that oxidative stress levels are usually elevated.3 At the start of this study, 65% of supplemented and 70% of control patients showed elevated oxidative stress on blood tests. Following the supplementation period, control patients showed no decrease in oxidative stress, but supplemented subjects had 8 and 10% reductions at three and six months, respectively.3
A third study demonstrated the impact of oak wood extract on the response to histamine in normal subjects.10 Histamine is a substance released in the face of allergic or inflammatory stimuli, and there is some evidence suggesting that chronic fatigue syndrome may be related to excessive release of, or sensitivity to, histamine in skin, intestines, or brain tissue.11,12
In this study, female participants were randomly assigned to control or supplement groups (300 mg Robuvit®/day) for three days, followed by an injection of pure histamine into the skin.10 A normal response to this injection produces a so-called “wheal and flare” response: a raised, itchy skin wheal associated with a red flare on the skin surface and with increased microcirculation in the immediate area. Compared with control subjects, those who had supplemented with Robuvit® had a significantly smaller wheal area (28%), smaller area of redness (13%), and lower levels of circulation increase in the immediate area (49%).10 These results suggest an additional mechanism, blockade of histamine effects, for this novel roburin-rich oak wood extract’s effects on chronic fatigue syndrome.
No side effects of the oak wood extract supplementation were reported in any of the participants in these studies.3,10
What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis) is a sizeable public health problem affecting, by some estimates, up to 3.3% of the general population.13-16 For decades, mainstream physicians had little understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome or how to treat it. Even today, little progress has been made in genuinely understanding the biology of a condition many practitioners still regard as a “functional disorder” in which symptoms may be “psychological, imagined, or faked.”17-19
The syndrome is formally defined as “severe and disabling new-onset fatigue with at least four additional symptoms” from this list:3,16
- Impaired memory or concentration,
- Sore throat,
- Tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpits,
- Muscle pain,
- New headaches,
- Unrefreshing sleep, and/or post-exertion malaise.
Additional “secondary” symptoms may also occur, including:3
- Sensitivity to noise, foods, medications, or chemicals,
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, or irritable bowel,
- Periodic or persistent dizziness or lightheadedness,
- Mood swings,
- Weight changes without changes in diet or activity level,
- Alcohol intolerance,
- Increased allergies, and/or
- Visual disturbances (blurring, sensitivity to light, eye pain, frequent eyeglass prescription changes).
Adding to the burden of these widely varying and chronic symptoms and the disdain many sufferers feel from their mainstream healthcare providers is the near-complete lack of effective pharmacological therapies.20
Epstein-Barr Virus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, And Ribosomal Biogenesis
Despite years of research, no single cause for chronic fatigue syndrome has yet been identified. A connection has been established between the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and chronic fatigue syndrome.21 The virus, which infects up to 90% of people, can remain latent, becoming a permanent, but hidden, resident of the white blood cells called lymphocytes.22
What happens next provides clues to how oak wood extracts, with their ribosomal support properties, may help fight chronic fatigue syndrome.
Epstein-Barr virus can periodically become activated by expressing its genetic message within host white blood cells, producing symptoms quite similar to those of chronic fatigue, including low-grade fever, liver dysfunction, enlarged or tender lymph nodes, and enlargement of the spleen and liver.23
It is now clear that Epstein-Barr virus produces very short sequences of RNA, the companion molecule to gene-carrying DNA. These viral “microRNA,” or “miRNA,” sequences bind to host cell messenger RNA. There, they can silence vital genes in the host cells and, as a result, affect proteins that have structural and functional roles.22,24,25 Some of the affected proteins form portions of the ribosomes themselves and may be involved in a host of core cellular activities.26
In addition, virus-induced changes to the immune system of individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome are responsible for the uncontrolled degradation of ribosomal RNA. This leads to a cascade of events that destroys structurally and functionally important vital proteins, resulting in cell death.27-32
A virus-infected cell, therefore, has difficulty manufacturing proteins that are essential to cellular activity. Studies now show that patients with chronic myalgia, a condition similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, have multiple changes in levels of proteins related to muscle activity and pain sensation, presumably at least in part the result of virus-induced ribosomal dysfunction.33 Thus, virus-induced changes in ribosomal function may be intimately related to the origins and symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.27-32,34
Since ribosomes are the tiny molecular factories that build all of the proteins in the body (including every enzyme, every structural protein, and every peptide-signaling molecule), restoring ribosomal function may be an important target for treating chronic fatigue syndrome.35,36
The process of ribosomal biogenesis is the natural way the body restores ailing ribosomes.6,37 Biogenesis simply means “making new biologically,” so ribosomal biogenesis is the process of making new ribosomes, which in turn empowers the body to make more proteins of the kinds needed for everyday function.
Mainstream medicine is only now recognizing the importance of promoting ribosomal biogenesis, but there are no drugs or other therapies that do so. Natural products, on the other hand, show tremendous potential. Indeed, sirtuins, the specialized proteins closely associated with increased longevity-and which are activated by numerous natural supplements-have recently been found to boost ribosomal biogenesis, whereas aging is associated with diminished ribosomal biogenesis.38,39
Oak wood extract is now being hailed for the ability to support ribosomal biogenesis in human cells in culture. Regardless of the cell types examined, researchers found that treatment with oak wood extract upregulated important genes involved in ribosomal biogenesis.5 As a result, treated cells would be able to respond much more rapidly to the need for new, healthy proteins, and less likely to succumb to the weakening effects of EBV viral infection with its negative impact on ribosomes.
Chronic fatigue syndrome remains a puzzling and frustrating condition for patients, families, and their physicians alike. Modern science has provided tantalizing clues, but so far, there has been no real progress in understanding and treating this common condition. No medication or other form of therapy is yet available to change the underlying sources of the condition.
There is now new hope for the millions of chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers, thanks to discoveries about the unique properties of roburins, a group of ellagitannins found exclusively in oak wood. These molecules undergo chemical changes in the human intestinal tract, mediated by normal healthy bacteria, which can fight chronic fatigue syndrome on several levels.
Oak wood extract has been proven effective in a clinical trial, improving almost all primary and secondary symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. This and other studies demonstrate intriguing possible mechanisms of action, including changes in the function of the cellular protein factories called ribosomes. Altered ribosomal function has been seen in people infected with Epstein-Barr virus, which is strongly associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. Support for ribosomal function may prove to be an entirely new approach to managing chronic fatigue syndrome.
Robuvit® is a patented and standardized oak wood extract rich in roburins. Even for those who do not suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, oak wood extract may be considered a novel method of maintaining one’s cellular protein synthesis machinery.
Reprinted with kind permission of Life Extension
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- Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/basics/treatment/con-20022009. Accessed September 5, 2014.
- Belcaro G, Cornelli U, Luzzi R, et al. Improved management of primary chronic fatigue syndrome with the supplement French oak wood extract (Robuvit®): a pilot, registry evaluation. Panminerva Med. 2014 Mar;56(1):63-72.
- Horvathova M, Orszaghova Z, Laubertova L, et al. Effect of the French oak wood extract Robuvit on markers of oxidative stress and activity of antioxidant enzymes in healthy volunteers: A pilot study. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014:2014:639868.
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