How a Single Fat Compound May Contribute to ALS
By Chris Brown
Chronic degenerative diseases are a valid fear for people as they age. These diseases can severely limit quality of life and are typically progressive and incurable. One such devastating disease is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) affecting up to 30,000 people in the United States.
ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease after the New York Yankee baseball player whose streak of consecutive games was ended by the disease, impacts the neurological system, causing neural degradation and decreased muscle strength that worsens until the point of complete motor control loss. As brain functionality remains relatively unaffected, sufferers are completely aware as their abilities slowly fade. ALS has no known causes or cures; 90 percent of cases have no known familial or genetic connection. However, a recent study has found a key factor that may help with early disease identification and treatment of ALS.
The Link Between a Lipid Pathway and ALS
A study out of John Hopkins Medicine honed in on the relationship between ALS and a fat which may contribute to its development. Research began after a link was discovered between heightened levels of arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid involved in inflammation used during wound repair) in those with ALS. Researchers theorized that the link may be causal between arachidonic acid and the neurological loss of ALS. They believed that if arachidonic acid isn't regulated properly, it could cause overblown inflammation that signals the body's immune system to incorrectly attack healthy neural tissue. This would lead to the brain-to-body signal network gradually degrading, as neural pathways get destroyed by the inflammatory reaction. The slow neural degradation of this theory would seem to account for the progressive nature of ALS.
What Arachidonic Acid Means for ALS Prevention and Treatment
John Hopkins Medicine researchers tested their arachidonic lipid pathway theory by supplementing mice bred to develop ALS with a caffeic compound designed to tamper the arachidonic acid pathway. They found that the mice fed caffeic acid developed 20-25 percent increased grip strength and lived two to three weeks longer than the other ALS mice. While supplementation of caffeic acid isn't recommended for humans at this time, plenty of foods contain the ingredient at safe levels including coffee, tea, tomatoes, and wine. It can be extrapolated that the long-term consumption of such high caffeic acid foods may help prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS.
ALS prevention is another, though unnecessary, reason a glass of red wine can accompany every dinner.
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