Antioxidants have no effect on Lou Gehrig's disease

A review of recent studies suggests that antioxidant supplements, including vitamin E and selenium, do not prolong the survival of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Although antioxidant treatments do not appear to cause any problems for ALS patients, they do not prevent muscle deteroriation or improve the quality of life for these patients, according to Dr. Richard Orrell of University College London and colleagues.

"Despite substantial literature on the scientific basis for the use of antioxidants in patients with ALS, and the widespread use of these medications by patients, often on the advice of their physician, there is no significant evidence to support their benefit in patients with ALS," Orrell says.

"The antioxidant medications used are generally well-tolerated, and without serious adverse effects. This probably explains their wide use by patients, with or without the advice of their physician," he adds.

The review appears in the January issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

ALS is a fatal disease that causes deterioration of motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Although researchers are still unsure about the exact causes of the disease, some have suggested that nerve cells in ALS patients are damaged by the accumulation of "free radicals," highly active oxygen particles that bombard and eventually collapse cells.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E "are commonly advised by physicians for patients with ALS," on the assumption that the drugs may help mop up excess free radicals.

According to Lucie Bruijn, science director at The ALS Foundation, studies of antioxidant treatments in mice have shown that "

Contact: Richard Orrell
Center for the Advancement of Health

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