ALS disease has doubled in 70 years

Man in wheelchair.Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix

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In 1950, only half as many cases of ALS were recorded as today. At the same time, obese people are less prone to the deadly disease.

This is among the findings that doctor Ola Nakken at Akershus University Hospital made when he studied the occurrence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) over a 70-year period. The disease leads to muscle wasting, and life expectancy after diagnosis is only three years.

So far, there are medicines that slow the course decease, but none that cure the disease.

Obesity protects
According to Nakken, the increase in incidence from 1950 to the present day has been 97 per cent for men and 140 per cent for women. The reason for the sharp increase is unclear, he says to research.no. At the same time, he does not disregard that fewer diagnoses may have been made before than presently.

However, a sub-study involving nearly 1.5 million citizens shows a link between body mass index (BMI) and risk of ALS. While obese people had 18 percent lower ALS risk than the lean ones, people with so-called obesity had a 34 percent lower risk.

After following up on people who put on weight over a period of 27 years, Nakken concludes that weight gain protects regardless of whether the individuals initially had low or high body mass index.

Vulnerable cells
He thinks it will be speculation to try to explain the connection.

-But it seems that the cells that destroy ALS, motor neurons, are vulnerable to stress and low energy supply, says Nakken.

Muscle loss with ALS is caused by brain cells sending signals from the brain to the muscles are being destroyed. Mobility is weakened and eventually also the breathing, and many need the help of a oxygen machine to breathe.

Around 300 people are diagnosed each year.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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