A higher consumption of vegetables rich in carotenoids has been found to lower the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a study published in the Annals of Neurology showed this week. Senior study author Dr Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, and his team analysed the findings from five studies which covered over one million participants in total.
Their analysis showed that an increased dietary intake of carotenoids resulted in a lower risk of ALS, which is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, where nerve cells progressively waste away and die. In particular, a higher consumption of beta-carotene and lutein was associated with a reduced risk of developing ALS. However, according to the researchers, people with diets rich in carotenoids lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin as well as in vitamin C did not seem less likely to develop the disease.
Beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A in the body, is found in sweet potatoes, carrots and squash. Foods rich in lutein, a type of oxygen-rich carotenoid, include deep green vegetables such as kale and broccoli. Lycopene is found in tomatoes and beta-cryptoxanthin is found in sweet peppers and oranges.
Overall, the study found that a higher consumption of vegetables rich in carotenoids was linked to an increased likelihood of exercising and a higher vitamin intake. The conclusion was that a higher carotenoid intake may help prevent or delay the onset of ALS.