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A diet full of antioxidant-rich, brightly-coloured vegetables may play a role in preventing the deadly disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
It is a neurological disease that progressively causes nerve cells to waste away and die, leading to devastating effects on the body.
“ALS is a devastating degenerative disease that generally develops between the ages of 40 and 70, and affects more men than women,” says senior study author Dr Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
Dr Ascherio and his team analysed data from five long-running studies that collectively contained more than one million participants, the Annals of Neurology reports.
Nutrition habits and presence of health problems examined closely by researchers to see if food consumption had an impact on ALS development.
Previous studies suggest that individuals with a high intake of antioxidants, in particular vitamin E, may be less likely to develop ALS.
The researchers found that people who took in high levels of carotenoids through their diets were less likely to have ALS than those who had diets low in the nutrients.
Carotenoids are antioxidant compounds that give fruits and vegetables their red, yellow, bright orange or deep green colours.
Common examples include beta carotene – found in foods like sweet potato, carrots and squash – and lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes.
Some carotenoids, such as beta carotene, convert into vitamin A in the body, while others can increase levels of vitamins C and E.