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ALS: Can sport and exercise pose a risk?


Intense physical activity can promote amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

When it comes to health, a healthy diet and adequate exercise and exercise are always recommended. However, researchers have now found that increased physical activity can increase the risk of developing a so-called motor neuron disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

In their latest study, scientists from the University Medical Center Utrecht found that strong physical activity increases the risk of developing motor neuron disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry".

What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?

According to the researchers, ALS is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disorder for which there is currently no treatment. Our genes are responsible for some of these diseases, but environmental factors also play an important role. In addition, the physical activity of those affected affects the risk of suffering from this disease, the researchers say.

Over 4,000 subjects were examined

Evidence from previous research on this topic has not been conclusive, possibly due to the differences in research design and the methods used in the studies, the experts explain. To close this gap, the researchers compared the lifestyle of 1,557 adults diagnosed with ALS in their mid-1960s. The subjects came from Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands. For comparison, 2,922 similar old people were examined who did not suffer from the disease.

Participants had to answer various questions

Each participant provided details of their educational qualifications. The lifestyle, the history of their occupations and their lifelong physical activity were also taken into account.
The metabolic equivalent was used to measure physical activity. The metabolic equivalent expresses the amount of energy (calories) consumed per minute of physical activity.

Physical activity increases the risk of ALS

Analysis of this data showed that lifelong physical activity was associated with an increased risk of ALS. This increased risk persisted after considering potentially influential factors such as age and various job exposures, the scientists explain. The increased risk from leisure activities was six percent and seven percent for work activities. When all activities were combined and evaluated, the combined risk was six percent. The higher the values ​​of the metabolic equivalent, the higher the risk for ALS, the scientists explain. Other studies had previously found that there was a higher prevalence of motor neurons among former professional athletes.

What was the combined risk?

However, the current research work was a so-called observational study. Such an investigation cannot establish causality. An increased risk of six percent for all activities combined can lead to a risk increase of 26 percent if physically active people are compared with less active people, the experts explain.

Movement protects against diseases but increases the risk of ALS

Although exercise is unlikely to be a major factor in the development of ALS, this increased risk may be very important for those with a genetic predisposition. Overall, physical activity has been shown to protect against many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a variety of types of cancer, the study's authors say. However, reducing the risk of these common conditions could increase the risk of a relatively rare disease like ALS, the researchers add. (as)

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