My mother passed away from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), so I was excited to read about a new study showing vitamin E lowered the risk of developing ALS. ALS is a terrible disease and often causes a great deal of suffering.
If you haven’t heard of ALS you may know it by its other name, Lou Gehrig’s disease. This disease not only was diagnosed in Lou Gehrig but it is also the disease that afflicts Stephen Hawking.
In most cases the cause of the disease is unknown, however approximately 10% of the diagnosed cases result from a genetic defect. Usually symptoms don’t start until the age of 50. ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in both the brain and the spinal cord. The nerve cells die or waste away which means they can no longer signal the muscles. As a result the patient becomes progressively weaker with muscle twitching and, eventually, paralysis. When the condition starts to affect the muscles of the ribs and chest breathing will become difficult. The patient may need to go on a respirator at this stage. The disease can affect the muscles involved in swallowing which may result in choking. During this time the person’s brain and mind are unaffected by the disease.
I did a little research and discovered that there were a few studies relative to vitamin E and ALS. The first study is from Annals of Neurology from Jan. 2005 where they found the individuals that used vitamin E had less than half the incidence of ALS.
The second study, in the American Journal of Epidemiology from May of 2011, evaluated a number of other studies finding vitamin E supplementation resulted in lower rates of ALS.
One study tried to use vitamin E as a treatment for ALS. The study found only a marginal benefit in disease progression but no difference in survival rate. In this study the scientists used alpha-tocopherol. Those of you who’ve read my previous discussion of vitamin E will remember how we recommend using the entire vitamin E complex. I suspect the complex would be much more beneficial than just alpha-tocopherol. Many studies have had this fault as they only use what is considered the most active component of vitamins E. However vitamin E works best in harmony with its other components.
These studies that showed vitamin E intake was associated with reduced incidence of ALS were cohort studies. This means that the participants were not supplied with a type of vitamin E but rather bought and took their own. We find most of our customers are aware enough to shop for a mixed tocopherol. I suspect many people in the study that showed a prevention of ALS were using mixed tocopherols as opposed to only the alpha-tocopherol component.
I’m glad I’ve been taking vitamin E as I do realize there is a certain amount of ALS that is hereditary. I want to do everything I possibly can to ensure a healthy future.