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A preliminary investigation of nutritional intake and supplement use in Australians with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and the implications on health-related quality of life

Breanna Weigel, Natalie Eaton-Fitch, Rachel Passmore, Hélène Cabanas, Donald Staines, Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik

Abstract: Background: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex, multisystem illness without a currently recognized pharmacological treatment. Dietary supplementation and modification have been posited as potential management strategies; however, their efficacy is controversial. Objective: This study aimed to assess the nutritional intake and supplement use of Australian ME/CFS patients and the perceived effect on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) for the first time in an Australian patient population. Design: Between February 2019 and January 2020, ME/CFS patients across Australia volunteered in this cross-sectional study in response to online advertisements. Eligible respondents were invited to complete three online self-administered questionnaires investigating their supplement use, nutritional intake, and HRQoL. The study participants’ supplement use and nutritional intake were summarized and compared with the population data returned from the Australian Health Survey (2011–2012). Multiple linear regression analysis was also performed to determine the effect of participants’ supplement use and nutrient intake on HRQoL. Results: Twenty-four eligible ME/CFS patients (54.2% meeting the International Consensus Criteria, 79.2% female, mean age = 43.4 ± 10.5 years) completed the online questionnaires. Supplement use was highly prevalent among the study sample (87.5%) and considerably more common when compared with population data (31.9%). Daily total fats and caffeine intakes were significantly higher among ME/CFS patients when compared with the Australian population (P = 0.009 and P = 0.033, respectively), whereas daily intakes of total carbohydrates and alcohol were significantly lower (both P < 0.001). No consistent trends between nutrition and supplement use with patients’ HRQoL could be identified. Conclusions: The daily diet and supplement use of ME/CFS patients appear to vary considerably from those of the general Australian population. Although the role of nutritional intake and supplement use on ME/CFS patients’ HRQoL remains unclear, dietary changes and the use of supplements appear to be of value to ME/CFS patients.
Keywords: myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) / chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) / nutrition / nutritional intake / supplements / health-related quality of life (HRQoL)

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