ALS: Mitigation through high-carbohydrate diet

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Nerve disease ALS: mitigation by carbohydrates

According to the results of a US study, a carbohydrate-rich diet could alleviate the course of the fatal nerve disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Accordingly, symptoms such as muscle pain, itchy rash or pneumonia occurred less frequently during the examination.

High carbohydrate diets perform best According to the results of a US study, the course of fatal nerve disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) could be alleviated by a high carbohydrate diet. In a study with 20 patients, the US scientists investigated the effects of different diets on patients, according to an article published on Friday in The Lancet. The best result was a carbohydrate-rich diet. However, "given the small number of test participants, further tests must show whether the findings can be generalized", as the study report states.

Ultimately, patients lose the strength to breathe. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's syndrome, affects nerve cells that are responsible for controlling the skeletal muscles. Sick people become tired and weak and even lose the strength to move and ultimately to breathe. Patients also find it difficult to eat. You will eventually need to be fed through a feeding tube. On average, people with ALS die about three to five years after first diagnosis. The researchers' assumption that patients die earlier if they lose weight has also been shown in animal experiments. Experiments with mice had shown that those animals who lived on a high-calorie diet with a lot of fats lived longer.

Trial participants already had to be fed using a gastric tube Scientists from the United States were now investigating three different diets for the 20 patients who had advanced ALS and who already had to be fed using a gastric tube. The patients in a control group received so many calories that the body weight should actually remain stable. In the other two groups, the sufferers received 125 percent of the calories needed to maintain weight. In one of these groups the diet was particularly high in fat, in the other particularly high in carbohydrates. The patients in the four-month trial were then followed for a further five months. It was shown that the patients from the group with a particularly high-carbohydrate diet were doing significantly better than those from the other two groups. They suffered less often from muscle pain, rashes or pneumonia. In addition, none of this group died in the five months after the special diet. One patient died from the group with the particularly high-fat diet, and three patients died from the control group.

Because of the small number of participants only meaningful was determined "significant differences in the development of body weight". Patients in the group "with a particularly high carbohydrate diet increased on average by 390 grams per month", while the patients in the control group increased by 110 grams per month. The patients with the particularly fatty diet even lost weight, losing an average of 460 grams of body weight per month. However, the study is only of limited significance due to "the small number of test participants". The main focus was on whether it was safe for patients to change their diet and not the effects of the change.

Stephen Hawking World's Most Well-Known ALS Patient "This pilot study shows how safe a new, simple and inexpensive treatment is for this devastating disease, for which there are currently very few treatment options," said study leader Anne-Marie Wills from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston . "Negative effects of weight gain such as diabetes or heart disease, as we feared, were not observed during the study period." There should now be larger studies with patients who had early-stage ALS. As a living example of the severity of the disease, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is probably the best-known ALS patient. Hawking has been wheelchair-bound since the late 1960s because of the illness. The world-famous astrophysicist uses a speech computer for communication. (ad)

Image: Halina Zaremba /

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Video: High-carb diet: the key to living a longer life The University of Sydney

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