Research: VELDINK and colleagues,

Listed in Issue 146


VELDINK and colleagues, Department of Neurology, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, G.03.228, PO Box 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands,, have investigated the relationship between essential fatty acids and vitamin E in diet and the risk of developing motor neurone disease.


The aim of this study was to assess whether the dietary intake of fatty acids, cholesterol, glutamate or antioxidant vitamins was associated with the risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease.


Patients referred to a clinic during 2001-2002, who had definite, probable or possible ALS according to El Escorial criteria, without a familial history of ALS, were enrolled in a case-control study (132 patients and 220 healthy controls). A food-frequency questionnaire was used to assess dietary intake for the nutrients of interest. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed with adjustment for confounding factors (sex, age, level of education, energy intake, body mass index and smoking).


A high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E was significantly associated with a reduced risk of developing ALS (fatty acids: odds ratio = 0.4, p = 0.001; vitamin E: odds ratio = 0.4, p = 0.001). Essential fatty acids and vitamin E appeared to act synergistically, because in a combined analysis the trend odds ratio for vitamin E was further reduced from 0.67 to 0.37 (p = 0.02), and that for fatty acids from 0.60 to 0.26 (p = 0.005), with a significant interaction term (p = 0.03). The intake of flavonols, lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin B2, glutamate, calcium or phytoestrogens was not associated with the risk of developing ALS.


A high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E is associated with a 50-60% decreased risk of developing ALS, and these nutrients appear to act synergistically.


Veldink JH et al. Intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E reduces the risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 78 (4): 367-371, Apr 2007.


This finding that PUFA and Vitamin E reduced the odds ratio for ALS may be highly significant, as motor neurone disease is notoriously resistant to many treatment approaches.

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