Q: Does wine consumption have any impact on the risk for ALS, or on how the disease progresses? -Dave N., Milwaukee, Wis.
A: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive and debilitating neurodegenerative disease. ALS affects motor neurons, the nerve cells that branch out from the brain and run the length of the spine and out to the rest of the body. The brain uses them to manage voluntary muscle movement. They control the ability to talk, walk, eat and breathe. The illness' progression results in the gradual degradation of the motor neurons. There is no known cure, and the disease is ultimately fatal.
However, a 2012 study out of the Netherlands that focused specifically on how smoking and drinking impacts ALS found that moderate alcohol consumption correlated with significantly lower incidences of development of the disease. Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the study involved more than 2,300 participants, nearly 1,000 of whom had some form of ALS. The scientists found that moderate drinkers were about half as likely to develop ALS as those who didn't drink at all.
ALS research continues, but the Dutch study may lead scientists in new directions on their quest for a cure and treatments. As always, speak with your physician about your best course of treatment.