Many of us with fibromyalgia – myself included – have cabinets full of over-the-counter supplements that we’ve tried in an effort to reduce our symptoms.
Now, a new systemic review of vitamin/mineral use among those with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) confirms what many of us already knew: We may be wasting a lot of money on supplements that don’t work.
The Netherlands-based study pooled data from 27 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies and tried to discern whether FMS/CFS patients suffer from vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and which – if any – vitamins/minerals actually improve symptoms.
The bottom line? “Little evidence was found to support the hypothesis that vitamin and mineral deficiencies play a role in the pathophysiology of CFS and FMS, and that the use of supplements is effective in these patients,” read the review.
But there were a few vitamins/minerals that showed positive results in FMS patients. The findings included:
- A 2013 study showed taking magnesium citrate in conjunction with the antidepressant amitriptyline was more effective at reducing pain and other measured outcomes than amitriptyline alone.
- A 2010 study concluded combining exercise with vitamins C and E may lower oxidative stress in FMS patients, but it did not improve their overall symptoms.
- A 2014 study found that supplementing with vitamin D3 in fibromyalgia patients led to less pain.
Overall, supplementing with vitamin D received mixed results, depending on the study. “Most studies investigating vitamin D found no significant associations between vitamin D and clinical parameters in CFS and FMS patients,” read the review. However, two studies did find that pain levels were higher in FMS patients whose vitamin D levels were less than 30ng/ml versus those with higher levels.
(It’s important to note that researchers were only looking at vitamins/minerals – not supplements in general – and that the research in this area is limited, so my personal opinion is that it’s too soon to say whether vitamins/minerals are helpful for fibromyalgia or not. Personally, I have found them to be helpful.)
When researchers studied vitamin/mineral levels in FMS patients, they found:
- “All studies investigating vitamin A, vitamin C, ferritin, iron and selenium found no significant associations between vitamin and mineral status and clinical parameters in FMS patients,” read the review.
- “All studies that investigated vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, molybdenum, phosphorus, sodium and iodine, and the majority of studies that investigated potassium and selenium status found no statistically significant difference between patients and [healthy] controls.”
- “In contrast, all studies that investigated vitamin B1 and manganese, and the majority of studies that investigated vitamin A found statistically significant lower serum values in [FMS] patients versus controls.”
- “Consistent significant lower circulating concentrations were found repeatedly and in the majority of studies for vitamin A and vitamin E in patients compared to controls. However, the significant difference in circulating concentrations of vitamin E between patients and controls disappeared when excluding low quality studies. … In addition, RCTs testing supplements containing these vitamins and/or minerals did not result in clinical improvements.”
- There were mixed results for levels of copper, ferritin and zinc. Three studies showed higher copper levels in FMS patients compared to one study with lower levels. Ferritin levels were lower in two studies of FMS patients, but higher in two others. Three studies showed low zinc levels in FMS patients, but two studies showed higher levels. Taken together, all of these studies essentially cancelled one another out.
The researchers who completed the review acknowledged their findings were limited by the quality of the available studies. Most of the studies included in the review were observational in nature, so their conclusions are not as valid as those coming from an RCT using a placebo and healthy controls.
Very few RCTs have been conducted to investigate the effect of vitamin/mineral supplementation in FMS and CFS patients. That’s mainly because there’s little financial incentive to study low-cost supplements.
“The current literature on vitamins and minerals in CFS and FMS is of poor quality and stresses the need for well-performed intervention research and large population-based and age-matched prospective studies in CFS and FMS in order to gain more insight in the role of vitamins and minerals in the pathophysiology of CFS and FMS,” the review said. “According to our results, potential vitamins and minerals that should be further examined include vitamin A and vitamin E.”
Now it’s your turn: Do you supplement with vitamins/minerals for fibromyalgia? If so, do you find it helpful? Please share your experiences in the comments section!