The role of essential fatty acids in chronic fatigue syndrome. A case-controlled study of red-cell membrane essential fatty acids (EFA) and a placebo-controlled treatment study with high dose of EFA

Acta Neurol Scand. 1999 Feb;99(2):112-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.1999.tb00667.x.


Objective: To replicate the treatment study by Behan et al. (1990) using current research criteria for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Method: Fifty patients who fulfilled the Oxford Criteria for CFS were randomly allocated to treatment with either Efamol Marine or placebo for 3 months. They were seen monthly and completed a physical symptoms checklist and the Beck Inventory for Depression and reported if they were the same, better or worse at the end of the study.

Results: Symptoms generally improved with time but not significantly and there were no significant differences between the treatment and placebo groups. Pretreatment red-cell membrane (RBC) lipids of patients compared with age-and sex-matched normal controls showed no significant differences.

Discussion: The results of this study contrast sharply with the previous study where 85% of patients had a clinically significant improvement of symptoms with Efamol Marine over a 3-month treatment period.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / drug effects*
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / blood
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / therapy*
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acids
  • Male
  • Membrane Lipids / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Oils
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Treatment Outcome
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Linoleic Acids
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Plant Oils
  • evening primrose oil
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid