Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
• ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a nerve disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness. It usually begins with weakness in the hands or feet, which then spreads to the rest of the body. Affected muscles become spastic (tight and prone to spasm) and ineffective. As the weakness spreads, speaking, breathing, and swallowing become difficult. Most people die within 3 years of being diagnosed. However, for reasons that are unclear, some individuals (such as the physicist Stephen Hawking) live much longer.
The cause of ALS is unknown, and there is no cure for the disorder. Physical therapy can help the muscles maintain strength and flexibility for a time. Drugs, such as baclofen, may reduce muscle spasms and cramping. Eventually, individuals with ALS must be fed through a tube and sustained on a ventilator.
is a potent
Based on this theory, a 1-year,
By looking closely at the data, the researchers did manage to find one benefit: According to one measurement of disease severity, vitamin E did appear to delay the progression of mild ALS to its more severe form. Unfortunately, this finding is quite likely a statistical fluke. When researchers look at enough measures of a disease, benefit will tend to be seen in one or two simply as the result of chance.
Some vitamin E proponents felt that the dose of vitamin E used in this study might have been too low. Researchers, therefore, conducted another study using
the dose, this one lasting 18 months and enrolling 160 people.
One study supposedly found that vitamin E along with high consumption of polyunsaturated fats reduced the risk of developing ALS,
In a carefully conducted, comprehensive review of studies evaluating the effectiveness of vitamin E and other antioxidant supplements, either alone or in combination, on ALS, researchers concluded that none significantly improved the symptoms or altered the course of ALS.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids
One very small double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that people treated with BCAAs for 1 year maintained muscle strength and the ability to walk longer than those on placebo.
L-Threonine, an essential amino acid, has been tried for ALS because, like BCAAs, it affects glutamate metabolism.
Another sports supplement,
Other Natural Treatments
Other nutrients that have been tried for ALS with some promising results in extremely preliminary research include
One very small trial tested a combination pill containing amino acids, antioxidants, and the calcium-channel blocker nimodipine, finding some evidence that it might slow the progression of the disease.
2. Tandan R, Bromberg MB, Forshew D, et al. A controlled trial of amino acid therapy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: I. Clinical, functional, and maximum isometric torque data. Neurology . 1996;47:1220-1226.
9. Tandan R, Bromberg MB, Forshew D, et al. A controlled trial of amino acid therapy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: I. Clinical, functional, and maximum isometric torque data. Neurology. 1996;47:1220-1226.
13. Tandan R, Bromberg MB, Forshew D, et al. A controlled trial of amino acid therapy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: I. Clinical, functional, and maximum isometric torque data. Neurology. 1996;47:1220-1226.
20. Kaji R, Kodama M, Imamura A, et al. Effect of ultrahigh-dose methylcobalamin on compound muscle action potentials in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a double-blind controlled study. Muscle Nerve. 1998;21:1775-1778.
26. Desnuelle C, Dib M, Garrel C, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS riluzole-tocopherol Study Group. Amyotroph Lateral Scler Other Motor Neuron Disord. 2001;2:9-18.
28. Graf M, Ecker D, Horowski R, et al. High dose vitamin E therapy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as add-on therapy to riluzole: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind study. J Neural Transm . 2004 Oct 27 [Epub ahead of print].
31. Zanette G, Forgione A, Manganotti P, et al. The effect of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on motor performance, fatigue and quality of life in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. J Neurol Sci. 2008 Feb 26. [Epub ahead of print]
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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