Preliminary results of a new clinical trial on facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSH) suggest supplements may have a small beneficial effect on the condition’s progression. Further studies are required, however, to confirm these early results.
This study was carried out by scientists at the University of Montpellier (France). Their published results suggest that supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium might have a positive effect on muscle function in individuals with FSH.
Dr David Hilton-Jones, a Consultant Neurologist at the Radcliffe Infirmary at Oxford, said:
The supplements led to some improvement in thigh muscle strength, but there is no evidence that they have an impact on walking ability. Most importantly, the study did not assess the effect of these supplements on those muscles most markedly involved in FSH such as the shoulder muscles. Further studies, over a longer time-course, are needed to see if such supplements have any practical benefits and at the moment we cannot recommend patients taking them.
Muscular Dystrophy UK welcomes this new trial towards understanding the potential benefits supplements might have on people affected by FSH. However, the study included only a small number of people and the results should be taken with caution.
We want to stress that taking supplements particularly in high doses over a long period of time and without medical advice could be harmful. In addition, the effect of these supplements might vary in different people and might depend on factors such as age, diet and severity of the condition,
said Dr Marita Pohlschmidt, the charity’s Director of Research.
The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign has been leading the fight against muscle-wasting conditions for over 55 years and is committed to keeping families up-to-date about new research advances.
The idea behind the study
All cells in our body, especially muscle cells, require oxygen to produce the energy necessary to carry out their functions. This energy production process generates by-products such as free radicals that can be harmful to the cells.
There are a number of mechanisms in place that neutralise these harmful by-products and protect the cells from damage.
In individuals affected by FSH, a region in the DNA that normally silences a gene called DUX4 is missing. The deletion results in DUX4 becoming over-active and the mechanism that protects the cells from free radicals cannot function properly. Researchers think that this might contribute to muscle wasting.
Supplements such as vitamin C are known to have protective effects against free radicals. To study the potential benefits of these supplements on people with FSH, a clinical trial was carried out.
The participants were divided into two groups and were given either a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium or a placebo over a 17 week period.
The researchers then measured the strength of the participants’ thigh muscles and how far they could walk in two minutes.
The results of the study showed that the thigh muscles of the group taking the supplements became slightly stronger compared to the group taking the placebo. However, the participants who took the supplements could not walk a longer distance than those who did not as measured by the two-minute walking test.
We hear from a lot of people with FSH who want advice on the benefits of supplements. Clinical studies such as this one are important as they can provide the evidence for clinicians to make better recommendations to their patients. However, the results of this particular study are not conclusive and further larger trials are needed to understand the precise benefit of the supplements on FSH,
said Dr Pohlschmidt.
Further information and links
To learn more about FSH
To read about the research we are funding into FSH
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