Eating brightly colored fruit and veg may help prevent ALS

Published on February 4, 2013 at 5:15 PM · No Comments

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Having a high intake of carotenoids, compounds that give certain fruits and vegetables their distinctive coloring, can reduce a person's risk for developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or motor neurone disease, suggest study findings.

In particular, high dietary intakes of β-carotene and lutein, such as might be found in carrots, peaches, peppers and spinach, were associated with a significantly reduced risk for ALS, whereas increased intakes of lycopene, β-cryptoxanthin, and vitamin C were not.

Given that oxidative stress has been implicated in ALS, Kathryn Fitzgerald (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues assessed the impact of dietary consumption of antioxidants such as carotenoids and vitamin C on the risk for ALS.

For their analysis, Fitzgerald and co-authors pooled data from five cohorts - the National Institutes of Health-Association of American Retired Persons Diet and Health Study, the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, the Multiethnic Cohort, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), and the Nurses Health Study (NHS) - comprising 1,100,910 participants in total.

As reported in the Annals of Neurology, semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire results from the five cohorts showed that people in the highest quintile for total major carotenoid intake (β-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and β-cryptoxanthin) had a significant 25% reduced risk for developing ALS over a median follow-up period of 11 years compared with those in the lowest quintile.

This reduction in risk could mostly be explained by higher intakes of β-carotene and lutein, as people in the highest quintile of intake for these antioxidants had significant 15% and 21% reductions in risk for ALS, respectively, compared with those in the lowest quintiles.

"ALS is a devastating degenerative disease that generally develops between the ages of 40 and 70, and affects more men than women," said senior investigator Alberto Ascherio, also from the Harvard School of Public Health, in a press statement.

"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," he added.

"Further research including food-based analyses may suggest possible dietary characteristics

associated with ALS prevention," conclude the authors.

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