Beta-carotene may prevent or delay amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to study
According to a study published in Annals of Neurology, the journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, eating foods that contain large amounts of beta-carotene and lutein may prevent or delay amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurological disease, characterized by degeneration of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis refers to muscle atrophy, that is it affects all muscles in the body, and in the final stages it causes respiratory failure due to respiratory muscle damage. Usually fasciculations occur in the initial stages, which are isolated muscle contractions, but as atrophy progresses, fasciculations begin to disappear. Besides fasciculations, the patient may notice muscle weakness in an arm or leg that worsens with time. There are cases in which the disease begins by affecting the bulbar muscles, that is by affecting the muscles responsible for swallowing or speaking. Patients may complain of dysphagia, which is difficulty in swallowing, or hoarseness or dysarthria, which means that they cannot speak properly.
National Institutes of Neurological Disorders Stroke (NINDS) estimates that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 Americans who suffer from this disease, and that about 5,000 are diagnosed each year. It should be noted that there are several theories about the causes of the disease but scientists do not know yet exactly what triggers the disease. There have been questionned infections (syphilis), poisonings, spinal injuries, but they are only probable causes of the disease. In addition, it should be noted that there is no cure for ALS, although many treatments have been tried over time.
Now researchers have discovered that certain compounds may be protective against the disease, assuming that ALS is caused by free radicals. Carotenoids, substances that give color to fruits and vegetables, are actually precursors of vitamin A and antioxidants. Senior author Dr. Alberto Ascherio, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said: Our study is one of the largest to date to examine the role of dietary antioxidants in preventing ALS.
To perform this study, the researchers took into account more than one million participants and, of these, they identified 1,093 ALS cases. The researchers found that those who consumed higher amounts of carotenoids had a lower risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It was also discovered that those who consumed higher amounts of carotenoids had a high consumption of vitamin C, did more sports and had an advanced degree. Other interesting findings were that the consumption of lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin or long-term vitamin C supplement were not associated with a decreased risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.