Supplements for Motor Neuron Diseases
What are motor neuron diseases?
Motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are progressive neurological conditions that damage nerve cells known as motor neurons. Ordinarily, upper motor neurons in the brain transmit messages to lower motor neurons in the brainstem and spinal cord; the lower motor neurons then transmit these signals to the muscles to produce muscle movement. MNDs destroy motor neurons, so this process is disrupted, which affects skeletal muscle activity, such as walking, talking, swallowing or breathing.
In addition to conventional medical treatments for motor neuron diseases, several dietary supplements may help manage MNDs. Supplements that may be beneficial for individuals with MNDs include the following:
- Vitamin D
Individuals with MNDs tend to have low levels of vitamin D. Serious deficiency may increase the risk of death; in this case, supplementation with vitamin D is a necessity.
Melatonin has antioxidant effects which may reduce oxidative damage that occurs with some MNDs.
More research is needed, but some studies suggest that creatine may prolong survival in individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
- Alpha-lipoic acid
A study involving mice found that the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid may help improve muscle function, hinder weight loss, and prolong survival. However, clinical trials involving the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on MNDs in humans are needed.
Clinical trials involving the use of ginseng in humans with MNDs have not been completed yet. However, a study involving mice found that ginseng may delay progression of symptoms and prolong survival.
Because dietary supplements can interact with medications or cause side effects, a medical professional should always be consulted before taking any new dietary supplement.