Is there an association between dietary intake and function in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?

Written by Peter Brown

A team led by researchers from Columbia University (NY, USA) has utilized existing data from a study into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) progression to investigate potential associations between nutritional intake, function and respiratory function of patients who exhibited symptoms of ALS for 18 months or less.
The research article, recently published in JAMA Neurology, explored the role of nutrition in the pathogenesis and progression of ALS in a cross-sectional baseline analysis conducted on 302 patients from 2008 to 2013 throughout the USA.

Participants of the study completed nutrient intake reports utilizing food questionnaires and had ALS function assessed using the functional rating scale and respiratory function was measured by the percentage of predicted force vital capacity. Individuals with higher rating scores and higher percentage of predicted force vital capacity generally displayed improved function.

Regression analysis and weighted quantile sum regression analysis of investigated nutrients demonstrated that a higher intake of antioxidants and carotenes from vegetables was associated with higher scores and therefore better ALS function at baseline.

“Those responsible for nutritional care of the patient with ALS should consider promoting fruit and vegetable intake since they are high in antioxidants and carotenes,” the study concludes.

Despite the initial positive results of the study and the two different analysis methods indicating an association between improved function and antioxidant, carotene, fiber and vegetable intake, the authors note that their findings cannot establish cause and effect. Additionally, they mention that the study is limited as they relied on food questionnaires, which may not be truly representative of daily diet.

Sources: Nieves JW, Gennings C, Factor-Litvak P et al. Association between dietary intake and function in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Jama Neurol. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2016.3401 (2016) (Epub ahead of print);