Is there a metabolic on-off switch that could prevent chronic fatigue syndrome?

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Evidence is mounting that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is caused by the body swapping to less efficient ways of generating energy.

CFS affects some 250,000 people in the UK. The main symptom is persistent physical and mental exhaustion that doesn’t improve with sleep or rest…Some have argued that CFS is a psychological condition, and that it is best treated through strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy.

But several lines of investigation are now suggesting that the…lack of energy…[could] be due to people losing their ability to burn carbohydrate sugars in the normal way to generate cellular energy.

Instead, the cells of people with CFS stop making as much energy from sugar as usual, and start relying more on lower-yielding fuels, such as amino acids and fats. This kind of metabolic switch produces lactate, which can cause pain when it accumulates in muscles.

The result is not unlike starvation, says [Chris Armstrong at the University of Melbourne in Australia]. “When people are facing starvation, the body uses amino acids and fatty acids to fuel energy for most cells in the body, to keep glucose levels vital for the brain and muscles as high as possible.”

[The study can be found here.]

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