I have a love hate relationship with pasta. Yes, I love pasta. Spaghetti, lasagna, rigatoni, Mac & Cheese, Hamburger Helper; you name it, I’ve had it and probably loved it (with loads of butter, of course).
Is pasta OK for those with ALS? Amy Campbell:
I think I could eat pasta every day and never tire of it. And when I’ve had a rough day, nothing comforts me as much as a plate of pasta with butter (or trans-fat-free margarine), Parmesan cheese, and freshly ground black pepper.
Agreed. What’s the downside?
There’s the camp that is indignant at the idea that pasta even exists — it spikes up blood glucose, causes weight gain, and may just be responsible for global warming (OK, that’s an exaggeration).
Until recently I had problems with pasta. Breathing problems. A full meal of pasta or rice would take forever to digest, worsen breathing, leave me gasping for air at the end of the day, and not able to sleep well at night.
What fixed that problem?
The ventilator that helps keep me alive. The machine does the breathing for me for 20 hours a day and that improves sleep. It also improves being awake.
Except I cannot speak while breathing through a mask.
My wife seems to like that part.
One more thing. Funny. True story. Those motor neurons that die in those with ALS? It turns out that they love sugar.
The brain is the organ that most relies on glucose, or sugar, to function, taking up one-fifth of the total glucose available in the body. People with ALS present weight loss and a metabolic dysregulation called hypermetabolism – defined as a significant increase in energy uptake – from the early stages of the disease.
In other words, more pasta. How so?
When ALS began I had slightly elevated blood sugar (glucose) so went on a strict diet and shed weight faster than a newly elected politician sheds truth and facts. Now my glucose is low. Getting lower. Too low.
What does pasta have to do with glucose and ALS? Fruit flies.
The researchers found that the motor neurons of ALS (fruit) flies were eating up more glucose than those of healthy flies. This also occurred in the spinal cords of people with ALS in patient-derived neurons cultured in the lab.
Now, when I eat pasta (and some sweets) I feel better, muscles relax longer, stiffen and cramp less. And my weight goes up.
Thank you, fruit flies. Let there be pasta.