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Fruits and Veggies Cut Brain Disease Risk: Study

Update Date: Jan 29, 2013 04:05 AM EST

Eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables can cut down the risk of developing a nerve disease called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that leads to muscle weakness and paralysis.

The cause of ALS is not known. According to PubMed Health, only one out of every 10 cases of ALS is due to genetic reasons. The new study on ALS found that eating vegetables rich in beta-carotene and lutein may prevent or at least delay the onset of ALS. Previous work has suggested that vitamin E intake can reduce the risk of ALS. Researchers, in the present study, examined the role of vitamin C and carotenoids in preventing the disease. It is the carotenoids that gives fruits and vegetables their characteristic colors like red, yellow or bright orange, according to a news release.

The disease is also called as Lou Gehrig's disease and affects about 5 out of every 100,000 people worldwide, PubMed Health says. There is no known risk factor or treatment for the disease.

"ALS is a devastating degenerative disease that generally develops between the ages of 40 and 70, and affects more men than women. Understanding the impact of food consumption on ALS development is important. Our study is one of the largest to date to examine the role of dietary antioxidants in preventing ALS," said Dr. Alberto Ascherio, professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass., and senior author of the study.

The study was based on the data available on more than a million people. Researchers identified 1,093 people who were diagnosed with ALS.

Study results showed that people with higher intakes of vitamin E long with vitamin C and carotenoids had reduced risk of developing ALS. Also, people who had higher levels of beta-carotine and luteine in their diets (obtained from dark leafy vegetables) had a lower risk of ALS.

"Our findings suggest that consuming carotenoid-rich foods may help prevent or delay the onset of ALS. Further food-based analyses are needed to examine the impact of dietary nutrients on ALS," said Dr. Ascherio in a news release.

The study is published in the journal Annals of Neurology.  

Previous research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of several health complications. A study suggested that eating fruits and vegetables lowers LDL (the bad cholesterol that causes heart diseases) in men and women. People can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes by eating fruits and veggies, says another study published in the journal Diabetes Care.

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