New research suggests that increased consumption of foods containing colorful carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein, may prevent or delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The study, published by Wiley in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, found that diets high in lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and vitamin C did not reduce ALS risk.
Carotenoids give fruits and vegetables their bright orange, red, or yellow colors, and are a source of dietary vitamin A. Prior studies report that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of ALS. Further studies have shown that individuals with high intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, have a reduced ALS risk. Because vitamin C or carotenoids are also antioxidants, researchers examined their relation to ALS risk.
According to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) roughly 20,000 to 30,000 Americans have ALS-also known as Lou Gehrig's disease-and another 5,000 patients are diagnosed annually with the disease. ALS is a progressive neurological disease that attacks nerve cells (neurons) 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.
"ALS is a devastating degenerative disease that generally develops between the ages of 40 and 70, and affects more men than women," said senior author Dr. Alberto Ascherio, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. "Understanding the impact of food consumption on ALS development is important. Our study is one of the largest to date to examine the role of dietary antioxidants in preventing ALS."