Colorful Foods Help Prevent Degenerative Disease
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neuro-degenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, leading to weakening and paralysis of voluntary muscles. The National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) report that about 20,000 to 30,000 Americans adults aged 40-70 years are affected by the condition. Dr. Alberto Ascherio, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass and senior author of the study states that understanding the impact diet on ALS development is important, and that their study is one of the largest to look into the role of antioxidants in preventing the disease.
The study, which was recently published by Wiley in Annals of Neurology, reports that while diets high in vitamin C, lycopene, and beta-cryptoxanthin did not reduce ALS risk, a higher total carotenoid intake was associated with reduced risk of ALS. They reached this finding after using data from five prospective studies including the Cancer Prevention Study II-Nutrition Cohort, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)–AARP Diet and Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Multiethnic Cohort, and the Nurses’ Health Study. The research included more than one million participants, where 1093 ALS cases were identified.
Carotenoids are substances that give fruits and vegetables their natural bright colors, like orange, red, or yellow. These are a source of vitamin A, a known antioxidant. Previous studies suggest that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of ALS, and that a high intake of antioxidants, like vitamin E, could reduce ALS risk.
Dr. Ascherio concludes that their findings suggest that consumption of food rich in carotenoids may help prevent or delay the onset of ALS and that further research is needed to evaluate the impact of various nutrients on ALS.