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Lutein and Beta-Carotene May Lower Risk of ALS

A recent, large-scale analysis by researchers at Harvard suggests that eating foods rich in beta-carotene and lutein may reduce the risk of, or at the very least delay the onset of, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, damages motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord that control muscle movement. It eventually leads to paralysis, trouble speaking and trouble breathing.

The study focused on five studies that, in total, included over one million participants. The researchers placed the participants into categories based on the amount of carotenoids, lycopene, and vitamin C they consumed.

After identifying 1,093 ALS cases, the researchers determined that the individuals with diets high in beta-carotene and lutein were at the lowest risk of developing ALS. They found no connection between the other nutrients and ALS risk.

This study was published online ahead of print on January 29, 2013 in Annals of Neurology.

Beta-carotene is a type of antioxidant known as a flavonoid. Previous studies have found associations between beta-carotene intake and lower risk of cardiovascular disease, improved oral health, and a lower risk of lung cancer. It can be found in vegetables and fruits that are green, yellow or orange.

Lutein is best known for its eye-health benefits and can be found primarily in dark green vegetables, such as spinach or kale.

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