NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Vitamin E supplements may play a role in preventing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the slowly paralyzing condition commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, new research shows.
Dr. Alberto Ascherio, of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues compared the risk of ALS in individuals who regularly took the antioxidant vitamins E and C with people who did not take these vitamins regularly.
Included in the analysis were 957,740 subjects at least 30 years of age who participated in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II. Data on vitamin use were collected in 1982, and ALS death rates between 1989 and 1998 were obtained from the National Death Index.
A total of 525 participants died of ALS during the study period.
Mortality rates due to ALS were 62 percent lower among long-term users of vitamin E than non-vitamin-users, the investigators report in the Annals of Neurology.
No significant associations were observed for vitamin C or multivitamin supplement use. Also, occasional use of vitamin E had not effect on ALS risk.
“Oxidative stress appears to act in concert with other mechanisms that have been implicated in the pathogenesis of motor neuron degeneration in ALS,” Ascherio’s group writes.
The researchers suggest that “vitamin E, by reducing oxidative stress, therefore could influence several downstream events that result in the death of motor neurons.”