Increased consumption of foods containing beta-carotene and lutein in particular may help prevent or delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), suggests a new US study.
The study analyzed data of five large prospective cohort studies including a total of 1,093 ALS cases (1). The results showed that participants with increased intakes of carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein, had a reduced risk of developing ALS. No such association was found for lycopene and vitamin C. Individuals who consumed more carotenoids in their diets were also more likely to exercise and to take vitamin C and E supplements.
The researchers noted that further food-based analyses are needed to examine the impact of dietary nutrients on ALS, a progressive neurological disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord which control voluntary muscles. As the upper and lower motor neurons degenerate, the muscles they control gradually weaken and waste away, leading to paralysis. The disease generally develops between the ages of 40 and 70, and affects more men than women. According to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke roughly 20,000 to 30,000 Americans have ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – and another 5,000 patients are diagnosed with the disease annually. Earlier studies have reported that oxidative stress may play a role in the development of ALS. Further studies have suggested that individuals with high intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, may have a reduced ALS risk (2).