Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) could be caused by having low levels of thyroid hormones, a new study suggests.
The findings shed new light on the truth behind the debilitating condition, which has prompted uproar among the medical community in recent years.
Skeptics dismiss the extreme tiredness and mental lethargy as merely psychological, but angry patients are adamant it’s biological.
And the new Dutch research, conducted on 197 adults, backs up claims that it is a physical problem and not made up in the head of sufferers.
Scientists today announced hope of finding the root cause of CFS, which may allow doctors to move away from treatments that involve psychologists.
The findings shed new light on the truth behind the condition, which has prompted uproar among the medical community in recent years
There is no cure and current treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), graded exercise therapy and medications such as antidepressants.
Researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen compared thyroid function between 98 CFS patients and 97 healthy adults.
Results, branded remarkable, showed CFS patients had lower serum levels of two key hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine.
Having low levels of the two hormones, called T3 and T4 respectively, can cause weakness and fatigue – like that of CFS.
However, they did not show signs of hypothyroidism – where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology.
SCIENTISTS ANGRY AT ‘FLAWED’ TRIAL
The study findings come after angry scientists threw cheap insults at each other regarding the ‘flawed’ results of a landmark £5 million British study on chronic fatigue syndrome.
One medical journal dedicated its entire August edition to ripping apart the ‘unreliable’ PACE trial, which was funded by taxpayers.
In response, three editors at the Journal of Health Psychology, who are all scientists, have resigned. One said the journal displayed ‘unacceptable one-sidedness’.
An upset co-editor of the journal hit back and told him to ‘f*** off’ for his ‘attempted bullying’, leaked emails obtained by The Times show.
He also called him a ‘disgusting old fart neoliberal hypocrite’ – despite once considering him a ‘hero’ and referring to him as a ‘Trotskyite’ in his younger days.
Some 250,000 people in Britain suffer from the condition, while figures suggest it strikes as many as two million in the US.
It comes with flu-like symptoms, extreme tiredness and mental lethargy which can leave some sufferers bedridden for years.
The condition rose to prominence in the 1980s, and was dubbed ‘yuppie flu’ due to the young professionals it tended to affect.
A lack of evidence for a clear physical cause encouraged doctors to believe it was a psychological condition.
But for years infuriated campaigners have insisted it is to do with an infection or a failure of their immune system.
A landmark study in 2011 published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, which has since been disputed, formed the basis of treatment.
The results of the PACE trial sparked the ongoing debate that the controversial condition is merely psychological.
Treatment for CFS is delivered by psychologists and involves therapy, which has only angered sufferers more by suggesting it is all in their head.
The new study comes after Bristol University research in September, published in the Archives of Disease, revealed that a controversial treatment for children with debilitating CFS can actually help in some cases.
The Lightning Process – a course which claims to retrain the brain to improve physical health – worked when combined with specialist medical care.
The £620 course has been praised by celebrities such as Martine McCutcheon and the wife of England rugby union player Austin Healey.
But some experts and campaigners have condemned the £620 course – which is not available on the NHS – as pseudoscience’ and ‘quack medicine’.