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Fruits, Vegetables and ALS

Antioxidants, Carotenes and Produce Linked to Higher Function in ALS Patients 

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the nation in the summer of 2014? It got a lot of people talking about ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). We won’t try to bring back that icy trend in mid-January (brr!) but we do want to bring back the important topic of fighting this rare disease.  

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a disease that kills nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control, paralysis and eventually respiratory failure. The disease affects more than 20,000 people in the United States with 15 new cases diagnosed every day. Though life expectancy after diagnosis is just about two to five years, researchers are hard at work to find a treatment. A promising study published in JAMA Neurology finds fruits and vegetables may play a role.  

Researchers asked 302 ALS patients questions about what foods they typically ate and determined what nutrients were in those foods. They also ran tests to estimate patients’ degree of functional impairment. The more antioxidants a patient ate, the better the patient’s function. Foods found to be especially beneficial were fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids (like carrots and spinach), foods high in fiber (like whole grains) and oils high in omega-3 fatty acids (like olive oil). On the flip side, deli meats and milk seemed to negatively affect function, likely because higher fat content can promote oxidative stress. 

This is just one great example of why eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is so important. A healthy diet doesn’t just mean a healthy weight, but a healthy body too! We’re still years of research away from finding a real cure for ALS, but eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is an easy and risk-free way that patients may be able to improve their quality of life.

Published January 1, 2017

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