A new study suggests that having Type 2 diabetes puts individuals at a decreased risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The research acknowledges the insights of previous literatures that showed an association between the pathophysiological changes in ALS and cardiovascular and metabolic health; however, there are no extensive evidences that identify the role of diabetes mellitus in the entire process.

The team of Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, Sc.D., a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston reviewed the data of 3,650 individuals aged 65 on the average. These people were diagnosed with ALS between 1982 and 2009, and were included in the Danish National Registers. The researchers also collated information from 365,000 individuals without comorbidities and 9,294 patients with type 2 diabetes.

The study published in JAMA Neurology discovered that out of the total number of individuals with type 2 diabetes, 55 developed ALS. The average age that a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was 59.7 years old and the average mean of ALS and diabetes diagnosis in persons with both diseases was 9.8 years.

"We found a protective association between type 2 diabetes and ALS," Kioumourtzoglou tells HealthDay. "This is a very new finding."

The researchers also confirm that the decreased risk of ALS was linked to diabetes, and not to obesity. This statement was made after the experts observed the chances of developing ALS; the odds for diabetes was 0.61 and for obesity, 0.81.

"Our findings provide some additional support on the idea that energy metabolism plays an important role in ALS pathogenesis," says Kioumourtzoglou. "The specific underlying mechanisms for our observed association between diabetes and ALS are currently unknown. Therefore, the immediate clinical implications are not necessarily clear."

Nonetheless, Kioumourtzoglou believes that their study can provide a valuable insight for researchers about the mechanisms played by energy metabolism to the development of ALS.

The relationship between ALS and diabetes needs further review and investigation, particularly in different platforms such as in epidemiology and toxicology. The link between diabetes and ALS must be explored further in other epidemiologic and toxicologic studies in different settings, Kioumourtzoglou said. In the future, she adds that experts should determine the exact diabetic factor that associates it with ALS. If the said link can be identified, she states that potential preventive and curative interventions may be possible.

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