The ALS Association

Research Study Shows High Caloric Intake Is Safe in Individuals with ALS Using a Feeding Tube

March 3, 2014

A new study published in the journal The Lancet indicates that high caloric intake is safe and tolerable in people with ALS with a feeding tube. This research sets the stage for a larger trial testing whether high caloric intake can slow progression of the disease.

Previous studies involving a mouse model of ALS have shown that high caloric intake is associated with increased survival, and those with ALS who are slightly obese tend to have longer survival. This prompted Ann-Marie Wills, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, to begin an initial safety study in people with ALS who already have a feeding tube. In this study, which ran five months, 20 participants received either their normal diet, or a high-carbohydrate diet, or a high-fat diet. Participants in the high-carbohydrate group experienced the fewest adverse effects. There were not enough participants to determine whether either of the treatments had an effect on survival.

“These encouraging results provide support for proceeding with a larger trial,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., MBA, Chief Scientist for The Association. “That trial will tell us whether this simple intervention can improve survival, an effect predicted from the animal model.”

In a separate publication leading from pilot studies The Association funded from 2000-2002 on caloric needs, ALS Association Certified Center Directors Edward Kasarskis, M.D, Ph.D.,  the University of Kentucky, Rup Tandan, M.D., the University of Vermont, and Zach Simmons, M.D., at the ALS Clinic at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and colleagues made detailed measurements of total daily energy intake involving 80 people with ALS. They utilized the data to create a model that can be used in the clinic to estimate energy intake in individuals with the disease. The data collected and the model developed will be useful for advising those with ALS on nutritional needs and counseling them on placement of a feeding tube.

"It is gratifying to see that the results from these important studies can be translated directly into better clinical counseling for those living with ALS,” said Kimberly Maginnis, Chief Care Services Officer at The Association.

Read the press release.

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