Vibrant veggies could help prevent Lou Gehrig’s disease

By Shayna Brouker • Published: April 17th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s a terrifying disease that strikes with little warning. Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic (Ay-my-oh-TRO-fic) lateral sclerosis, also known as A-L-S, is an incurable disease that attacks the nerve cells of the brain, causing muscles to wither and die, often resulting in death within two to five years. But the simple habit of eating carotenoid (kuh-ROT-en-oid)-rich vegetables like carrots and spinach could help prevent Lou Gehrig’s by 25 percent.

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at the eating habits of more than 1 million people, one thousand of whom had A-L-S. Beta-carotene and lutein in particular were found to be effective in squashing A-L-S risk. Foods like sweet potatoes, carrots and squash are rich in beta-carotene, while lutein is found in spinach and kale.

Those who ate the most veggies with these compounds were also more apt to exercise more, have a higher education level and consume more vitamin C. The carotenoid effect was even stronger among those who never lit up, since smoking can affect carotenoid levels.

Scientists don’t know the cause of A-L-S, but it is very rare and occurs in less than two in 100,000 people. The first sign is numbness in one leg or arm and progresses to muscle twitching, difficulty using hands and performing everyday tasks as well as problems with speaking, eating, swallowing and breathing. The good news is physical, occupational and speech therapy can help make the most of your abilities. Adaptive equipment like handrails and canes can help you stay mobile. Certain medicines can help relieve some symptoms.

Although scientists don’t know the causes of A-L-S, a daily dose of carotenoid-rich veggies cannot hurt. It may just help you avoid A-L-S altogether … and stay healthy and strong.