Carotenoids from Fruits and Vegetables May Help Prevent ALS
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS, is a devastating degenerative illness that incapacitates its victims in a manner similar to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At present, there is no known cure or effective treatment for the illness, believed to be the result of oxidative stress caused by decades of poor diet, stress, environmental toxins and poor physical conditioning. Researchers have now discovered that increased consumption of foods containing colorful carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein, may prevent or delay the onset of ALS.
Natural Sources of Fruits and Dark Leafy Vegetables Help Lower Risk of Developing ALS
ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord known to be responsible for the control of voluntary muscles. As the motor neurons degenerate, the muscles they control gradually weaken and waste away, leading to paralysis. A research team from the Harvard School of Public Health has published the results of their research in the Annals of Neurology that builds on prior studies showing that carotenoids, the natural compounds that give fruits and vegetables their bright orange, red, or yellow colors, provide critical antioxidant support to help fight this devastating disease.
Scientists evaluated five large studies comprising more than one million participants to develop a basis for evaluation. Researchers reviewed food intake for the group and further broke consumption down to determine carotenoids eaten in the form of fruits and vegetables. Lead study author Dr. Alberto Ascherio noted “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.”
Target Three to Five Daily Servings of fruit and Vegetables to Lower ALS Risk
A total of 1093 cases of ALS were identified across the cohort of subjects. The team found that those with the highest intake of carotenoids from any source had the lowest risk of developing ALS. They also determined that individuals who consumed more carotenoids in their diets were more likely to exercise, have an advanced degree, have higher vitamin C consumption, and take vitamin C and E supplements. Participants with the highest dietary consumption of beta-carotene and lutein, most commonly found in dark green vegetables had a reduced risk of developing ALS.
Interestingly, the researchers found that diets high in lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and vitamin C did not reduce disease incidence, and long-term vitamin C supplement intake was also not associated with lower ALS risk. Dr. Ascherio concluded “Our findings suggest that consuming carotenoid-rich foods may help prevent or delay the onset of ALS.” This study acts to support a large volume of prior works that reinforce the critical importance of a natural food diet consisting largely of fruits and vegetables to thwart diseases ranging from cancer and diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease and ALS.