Low muscle strength in late adolescence linked to ALS

GOTHENBURG, Sweden — Even if your kids aren’t into sports, here’s another reason to get their bodies moving regularly. A recent study showed that abnormally low muscle strength in teens was identified as a risk factor for the debilitating neurological condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS.

”One should never overstate conclusions from a first-time study – the results need to be repeated – but we still must say that what we have found is noteworthy,” said Maria Åberg, associate professor of neurobiology and lead author of the study, in news release.

Researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy and University of Gothenburg University in Sweden studied enlistment data in the Swedish military — 1.8 million men in all — between 1968 and 2005. They cross-referenced this information with data from the Swedish health care and mortality register. Most of the enlisted men joined the military at age 18, and the average follow-up time by the study authors was about 46 years.

The research team found that 526 individuals developed ALS, which usually occurs after the age of 50 and typically involves successive degradation of the nerves the body uses to control muscles.

The study confirmed the finding that ALS can be attributed to lower Body Mass Indexes (BMI) early in life. But more dramatic associations were made between ALS and lower levels of oxygen-rich blood cells, and low muscle strength in the hands, legs, and arms, all of which was measured in new enlisted men.

“Those with the lowest muscle strength had a significant risk of getting ALS 30 years later,” noted Åberg.

The study was published in the Journal of Neurology in December 2017.

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