Brightly Colored Fruits and Vegetables May Protect Against Lou Gehrig’s Disease
A diet plentiful in brightly colored, antioxidant-rich vegetables may help prevent or delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to a new study published in the online January 29 issue of Annals of Neurology. The research involving more than one million participants and over 1,000 cases of ALS is one of the largest studies to date exploring the connection between diet and this deadly illness.
ALS is a neurological disorder that progressively assaults nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, causing them to waste away and die. The death of these nerve cells produces devastating effects on the body, leading in an average life expectancy of only two to five years from the time of diagnosis.
Total carotenoids reduced risk by 25 percent.
Researchers examined data from 5 long-running studies, tabulating the participants’ nutrition practices and monitoring their occurrence of health problems to determine if diet has an effect on the development of ALS. They found a correlation with some antioxidants but not with others.
The results showed that participants who consumed the highest quantity of total dietary carotenoids had a 25 percent lower risk of ALS than those who consumed the least. The benefit was stronger among those who had never smoked. Carotenoids are antioxidants that impart yellow, red, bright orange and deep green colors to fruits and vegetables.
Individual carotenoids reduced risk by 26 to 30 percent.
In regard to individual carotenoids, participants who ate the most quantity of beta-carotene and lutein had a reduced risk of developing ALS by 26 and 30 percent respectively, compared to those who consumed the least. Beta-carotene is found in carrots, sweet potatoes and mangos, while lutein is present in deep green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale.
Not all antioxidants and carotenoids proved beneficial in cutting ALS risk. No risk reduction was found in lycopene, vitamin C and beta-cryptoxanthin, an antioxidant present in oranges and sweet peppers.
At this point, scientists do not know how often brightly colored fruits and vegetables would need to be consumed to reduce the risk of ALS. However, it appears that the more of these foods people eat, the greater the health benefit they will receive.
Some factors that increase the risk of illness, such as genetics, cannot be changed; but making dietary alterations is something within everyone’s reach. “Finding possible modifiable risk factors for ALS is important,” says lead author Kathryn C Fitzgerald, a doctoral student in nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
This study is not the first to uncover a link between carotenoid consumption and reduced risks of disease. Research published in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that women who consume high quantities of carotenoids have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.