Smoking ups ALS risk, alcohol lowers it

Aug. 16, 2012 at 12:29 AM
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DAVIS, Calif., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was lower among alcohol drinkers than among abstainers, and higher in smokers, U.S. and European researchers say.

Andrew Waterhouse of the University of California, Davis, and other members of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research reviewed the paper and said the study, which it called well-done, involved almost 500 cases of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

The reviewers said they were especially struck by the magnitude of the difference in risk of ALS between alcohol consumers and those who never drank. The risk among drinkers was about one-half that of non-drinkers.

"The results in this study are astonishing in this mysterious disease," one of the reviewers said. "One should expect that alcohol, as a toxic agent, rather should contribute to the development of ALS than to prevent it. The lower risk among drinkers compared with non-drinkers is remarkable."

The reviewers cautioned the results of the paper should not be used to prompt people to consume alcohol just to prevent ALS, because it is such a rare disease.

"With the others, I am struck by the very strong beneficial effect of alcohol consumption in reducing the risk of ALS. Within the 95 percent confidence interval, the highest risk for drinkers would be 75 percent of those who were non-drinkers, which is remarkably low," Waterhouse said in a statement. "As this is such a rare disease, it makes no sense to recommend alcohol consumption to avoid it."

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