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Link between athleticism and neurological disease

Neurological diseases seen in people who were student athletes and have always been slim are more likely to develop. Amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS)// is a rare and invariably fatal neurological condition. It's sometimes known as Lou Gehrig's disease, after the famous baseball player whose career was cut short by it. Oddly, researchers have now discovered a link between being athletic and developing ALS, as well as motor neurone disease, which is a related condition.

The team, at the Neurological Institute, New York, studied 200 patients with motor neurone disease, and 152 with other neurological problems. Previous research has shown a link between ALS and being lean and athletic throughout life. They found that the odds of having motor neurone disease was 2.21 times higher in those who had always been slim and 1.70 times higher in those who had been college athletes.

It's not clear what causes this association. It could be that physical activity increases exposure to neurological toxins in the environment, or speeds up their transport to the brain, or absorption into brain cells. Further research will look at the type of physical activity involved and the environment. There is certainly no need for people to give up physical activity for fear of developing ALS or motor neurone disease.


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