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Health News Archive 16 - ALS / Lou Gehrig's Disease
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Vitamin E May Stave Off Lou Gehrig's Disease

In a new study, regular users of vitamin E were at decreased risk for death from Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), compared with nonusers. Given that vitamin E is an antioxidant, the new findings support the hypothesis that oxidants play a key role in the development of ALS. Moreover, the results are consistent with earlier findings showing that increased brain levels of vitamin E seem to delay the onset of ALS in lab animals.

Still, use of another antioxidant, vitamin C, seemed to confer no protection against ALS, the report in the Annals of Neurology indicates.

In the study, Dr. Alberto Ascherio, from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from nearly 1 million subjects enrolled in the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study II. All of the subjects were at least 30 years of age when the study began in 1982. Information on vitamin E use was collected at enrollment and the subjects were followed from 1989 through 1998. During follow-up, 525 deaths from ALS were recorded, the investigators note.

Compared with nonusers, patients who took vitamin E for less than 15 days per month did not reduce the risk of death from ALS. However, patients who used vitamin E for 15 or more days per month for at least 10 years had a reduced risk of ALS death of 62 percent. As noted, the use of vitamin C, even on a regular basis for many years, did not protect against ALS.

As to why no benefit was seen with vitamin C, the authors believe it may be because vitamin C is "a water-soluble antioxidant with different properties than vitamin E and thus may not" act the same in the body.

Further studies are needed to confirm the apparent anti-ALS effect for vitamin E, the authors note. Also, because most cases in the current study occurred spontaneously, it remains to be determined whether or not a relationship exists for hereditary ALS, they add.

SOURCE: Annals of Neurology, November 2004.
 

Japanese Researchers Link Vitamin B-12 to ALS treatment

A group of University of Tokushima researchers in Japan has discovered that methylcobalamin, a form of Vitamin B12, could slow down the attack of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a progressive neuro-degenerative illness also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Researchers say methylcobalamin treatment could prolong the life of severe ALS patients.  The research group, led by Dr. Ryuji Kaji, professor of neurology at the University of Tokushima, presented the results at a meeting of the Japanese Society of Neurology in Yokohama in May, 2003.

According to Dr. Yuishin Izumi, a researcher involved in the project, a group 18 ALS patients were injected with a large amount of methylcobalamin and 11 of them remained alive, without the help of respiratory aid, one year to three years and seven months after the treatment. By contrast, another group of 16 ALS patients who received no methylcobalamin treatment all died between half a year and two years and eight months later.  The results of the experiment were verified in October 2002.

ALS attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, causing patients to eventually lose control of muscle movement and become paralyzed.

Dr. Kaji stressed that the results of the tests are only preliminary and more rigorous clinical tests are needed before a medical treatment can be developed.  "We would like to verify the results through large-scale clinical tests to be conducted with other medical institutions." Kaji said.  Shigeki Kuzuhara, a professor of neurology at the University of Mie in Japan, said the work of the Kaji group could be "good news" for severe ALS patients with fast progressing ALS symptoms.

Kuzuhara said methylcobalamin treatment would have few side effects and he is awaiting further clinical tests to prove its effectiveness.

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