Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gherig’s disease) is a debilitating motor neuron disease that can make it difficult for those affected to move or even breathe. For decades now doctors and other researchers have been searching for a way to cure or at least extend the lives of those with ALS. Now a new study has shown that a very simple change in diet could significantly slow the progression of the diesase.
The study, published in The Lancet, found that increasing the number of calories given to ALS patients could also increase their lives. During a phase 2 trial researchers fed ALS patients a calorie- and carbohydrate-dense formula for four months. None of the patients who received the formula died in the five months following the trial and were found to have “fewer adverse events” than other study participants who received other formulas.
“We are particularly excited because these results provide the first preliminary evidence that a dietary intervention may improve life expectancy in ALS, and they are strongly supported by epidemiological and animal data,” said Dr. Anne-Marie Wills, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Neurology. “This strategy has never been tested before in ALS, and we are optimistic that it may provide a new, effective and inexpensive therapy for this devastating illness.”
Because of the small sample size in the trial Wills and her colleagues were hesitant to make medical recommendations based on their findings. However, Wills did state that the trial indicates how important avoiding weight loss is to ALS patients and a larger study of nutritional counseling among ALS patients could be in the works.