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Latest News

Getting to the Root of Fibromyalgia

by Janis Leibold, Assistant Editor, Fibromyalgia Network
Posted: October 28, 2011

While many researchers are studying blood and urine of fibromyalgia patients to determine if mineral abnormalities exist, one team from Korea are taking a novel approach by going directly the root of the problem.* Their study of trace elements in hair samples show fibromyalgia patients have lower levels of important minerals compared to healthy adults.

Using 44 women with fibromyalgia and 122 healthy controls, the researchers snipped hairs from the tops of heads, very close to the roots, to perform their analysis. Like crime scene investigators, the research team led by Nam-Seok Joo, M.D., carefully selected patients and controls who had similar characteristics related to age, body mass, and lifestyle habits. Women with other illnesses that could possibly influence their hair sample were excluded from the study. All the participants, averaging 44 years of age, had to refrain from using hair gels, or applying any type of chemical processing (such as coloring or perms) at least two weeks before the snip.

The clean hair analysis showed fibromyalgia patients had significantly lower levels of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese. Many other minerals, such as chromium, selenium, potassium, phosphorous, sodium, and zinc, did not differ between the patients and controls.

Previous reports looking at mineral status in fibromyalgia patients have been very mixed and often conflicting. Joo points to the inherent problem of these prior studies which sampled blood or urine. The body is made to adapt to changing demands, such that many minerals are robbed from the bones to maintain sufficient blood levels. And alterations in the urine may not say much about the level of mineral storage in the bones or other tissues. However, hair analysis should provide a more accurate picture of the body’s overall mineral status.

So what exactly does it mean to be low in the five minerals identified by Joo? More studies are needed, but Joo points out that several reports have shown that fibromyalgia patients lack the necessary antioxidants to neutralize reactive chemicals that can interfere with cellular functions. This, in turn, leads to an oxidative stress environment and could account for symptoms involving muscles spasms and cramps, fatigue, neuromuscular weakness, and insomnia.

"Several studies have explored the relationship between fibromyalgia patients and oxidative stress. Still other studies investigated elemental composition of patients, but they surveyed only blood and urine samples," reported Joo. "The latter studies, while potentially useful, overlooked the mineral content of hair. The hair mineral assay is a good method to explore the mineral status at the cellular level."

While it is not practical to start taking a whole barrage of expensive mineral supplements, fibromyalgia patients should consider taking a daily broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains 100 percent of the essential nutrients including iron.

Mineral levels (average)
Healthy Controls
Fibromyalgia Patients
Calcium 1,093 mcg 775 mcg
Magnesium 72 mcg 52 mcg
Copper 40 mcg 28 mcg
Iron 7.1 mcg 5.9 mcg
Manganese 190 ng/g 140 ng/g


* Kim YS, et al. J Korean Med Sci 26(10):1253-7, 2011.

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