Objective

To assess whether prediagnostic levels of plasma branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) risk.

Methods

We included participants from 5 large cohort studies—The Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition, the Multiethnic Cohort Study, and the Women’s Health Initiative—and identified 275 individuals who developed ALS during follow-up. Two controls were randomly selected for each case, matched on cohort, age, sex, fasting status, and time of blood draw. We measured metabolites using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry and used conditional logistic regression to estimate rate ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association of individual BCAAs with ALS risk.

Results

None of the 3 BCAAs was associated with a higher ALS risk. The risk estimates were similar for leucine (RR top vs bottom quartile: 0.87, 95% CI 0.57–1.33), isoleucine (RR top vs bottom quartile: 0.81, 95% CI 0.52–1.24), and valine (RR top vs bottom quartile: 0.80, 95% CI 0.52–1.23) in a multivariable analysis adjusted for body mass index, smoking, level of education, and physical activity. The estimates did not vary significantly by sex, fasting status, or time interval between blood draw and disease onset.

Conclusion

The results from this study do not support the hypothesis that BCAAs are risk factors for ALS.

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