Originally published on phlabs.org
There are some diseases which disproportionately affect certain racial groups. For example, diabetes and hypertension are especially prevalent in the African-American communities. And amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, appears to be most common among Caucasians - especially males. According to the ALS CARE Database, 60% of the people with ALS in the Database are men and 93% of patients are Caucasian.
ALS is a rare but devastating disease and reportedly affects about 3.9 people per 100,000 in the U.S. population. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Essentially, this disease causes you to lose control of your brain. And if you don’t have control of your brain, you don’t have control of your body. ALS also causes loss of muscle control. The leading cause of death from ALS is respiratory failure.
Former New Orleans Saint NFL player Steve Gleason is currently battling ALS. Reportedly, he was diagnosed at just 34-years-old (ALS is more commonly found in people between the ages of 55 and 75). There is no cure or known cause of ALS, however, some sources say repeated head trauma from playing football could be the possible culprit behind Gleason developing ALS.
“There are several other young football players who have suffered from ALS, such as Tim Shawand Kevin Turner, who died of the disease in March  at 46,” according to one source.
“The head trauma hypothesis is bolstered by the fact that veterans appear to be more likely to develop ALS, as are soccer players. (With that sport, head-butting might be the culprit.) Other studies have found simply that concussions seem to be a risk factor for ALS, regardless of whether one is a professional athlete.”
Another case of ALS we previously discussed involved Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor Sam Shepard, who died of ALS at the age of 73.
And then there was the incredible story of Stephen Hawking and his battle with ALS that lasted around five decades! Hawking, who died last March at the age of 76 due to ALS, was diagnosed with the disease at just 21-years-old. After being diagnosed, doctors told him he would only live two years. Hawking proved them wrong by living another 55 years and achieving incredible things in his career as a physicist.
These stories of ALS all involve Caucasian men. At the end of the day, irrespective of our backgrounds, anyone may become a victim of this devastating disease. But the good news is that we can learn as much as we can about this disease and identify ways to be proactive.
But in addition to this, recent research shows that high doses of vitamin B12 supplementation may be able to slow down the progression of ALS if you already have it. The key is that you start supplementation before or during early onset (within the first year) of having ALS symptoms.
The research involved treating people with ultra-high-dose methylcobalamin, the physiologically active form of vitamin B12, according to one report discussing the study.
“Vitamin B12 is particularly important in the development and function of the central nervous system (CNS) — the spinal cord and the brain. It is also involved in the maturation of red blood cells and the production of DNA, the genetic material inside all cells.”
(Main sources of vitamin B12 are found in animal products, like meat and eggs. So if you are vegetarian or vegan, you may need to incorporate a B12 supplement into your diet).
According to the report, methylcobalamin is a form of B12 that can be used as a dietary supplement to treat megaloblastic anemia.
“Due to its important role in the CNS, the vitamin is also used to help treat peripheral neuropathy, a disorder of the nerves that send information from the CNS to the rest of the body. In some countries like Japan, it is seen as a potential treatment for ALS.”
One body of research suggests that methylcobalamin was able to decrease homocysteine levels.
“Homocysteine (Hcy) exerts multiple neurotoxic mechanisms that have also been shown to be relevant in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Another study showed that ALS patients who received ultra-high-doses of B12 injections directly into their muscles showed improvement in muscle electrical activity only after just two weeks.
One study in Japan conducted with ALS patients showed that administering ultra-high-dose methylcobalamin therapy may improve the prognosis of patients. But, again, this appeared to only be evident in patients who started this therapy during early onset of symptoms.
Be Smart & Safe About Supplementation
This does not mean that you should be trying to get as much B12 into your body as possible in order to prevent or better manage ALS. If supplementation, especially when it’s used to treat a serious disease, is not administered by a competent healthcare professional, you may not end up receiving the benefits.
On top of this, when you supplement, you have to consider all of the other nutrients your body needs. And overdoing it on one nutrient may ‘knockout’ other essential nutrients that help keep you healthy. So you need to be mindful of all supplements you may be taking.
For example, taking potassium supplements may deplete B12 from the body. Furthermore, vitamin C supplements may affect the ability of your body being able to efficiently absorb B12 from foods. Vitamin C supplements may break down vitamin B12 in the digestive tract and increase the absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract.
These are all reasons why routine nutrient tests are highly recommended. And remember to seek medical advice from a competent healthcare professional before you supplement, especially if you are battling a disease like ALS.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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