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Research paper
Multicentre, cross-cultural, population-based, case–control study of physical activity as risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis


Objective To investigate the association between physical activity (PA) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in population-based case–control studies in three European countries using a validated and harmonised questionnaire.

Methods Patients with incident ALS and controls were recruited from five population-based registers in The Netherlands, Ireland and Italy. Demographic and data regarding educational level, smoking, alcohol habits and lifetime PA levels in both leisure and work time were gathered by questionnaire, and quantified using metabolic equivalent of task scores. Logistic regression models adjusting for PA-related factors were used to determine the association between PA and ALS risk, and forest plots were used to visualise heterogeneity between regions.

Results 1557 patients and 2922 controls were included. We found a linear association between ALS and PA in leisure time (OR 1.07, P=0.01) and occupational activities (OR 1.06, P<0.001), and all activities combined (OR 1.06, P<0.001), with some heterogeneity between regions: the most evident association was seen in the Irish and Italian cohorts. After adjustment for other occupational exposures or exclusion of patients with a C9orf72 mutation, the ORs remained similar.

Conclusion We provide new class I evidence for a positive association between PA and risk of ALS in a large multicentre study using harmonised methodology to objectively quantify PA levels, with some suggestions for population differences.

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