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Original research
The hypometabolic state: a good predictor of a better prognosis in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis


Background Malnutrition and weight loss are negative prognostic factors for survival in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, energy expenditure at rest (REE) is still not included in clinical practice, and no data are available concerning hypometabolic state in ALS.

Objective To evaluate in a referral cohort of patients with ALS the prevalence of hypometabolic state as compared with normometabolic and hypermetabolic states, and to correlate it with clinical phenotype, rate of progression and survival.

Design We conducted a retrospective study examining REE measured by indirect calorimetry in patients with ALS referred to Milan, Limoges and Tours referral centres between January 2011 and December 2017. Hypometabolism and hypermetabolism states were defined when REE difference between measured and predictive values was ≤−10% and ≥10%, respectively. We evaluated the relationship between these metabolic alterations and measures of body composition, clinical characteristics and survival.

Results Eight hundred forty-seven patients with ALS were recruited. The median age at onset was 63.79 years (IQR 55.00–71.17). The male/female ratio was 1.26 (M/F: 472/375). Ten per cent of patients with ALS were hypometabolic whereas 40% were hypermetabolic. Hypometabolism was significantly associated with later need for gastrostomy, non-invasive ventilation and tracheostomy placement. Furthermore, hypometabolic patients with ALS significantly outlived normometabolic (HR=1.901 (95% CI 1.080 to 3.345), p=0.0259) and hypermetabolic (HR=2.138 (95% CI 1.154 to 3.958), p=0.0157) patients.

Conclusion Hypometabolism in ALS is not uncommon and is associated with slower disease progression and better survival than normometabolic and hypermetabolic subjects. Indirect calorimetry should be performed at least at time of diagnosis because alterations in metabolism are correlated with prognosis.

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. De-identified database will be shared on reasonable request for 2 years after publication by contacting the corresponding author at the following email:

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