Background: Late onset Pompe disease (LOPD) is a lysosomal neuromuscular disorder which can progressively impair the patients' exercise tolerance, motor and respiratory functions, and quality of life. The available enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) does not completely counteract disease progression. We investigated the effect of exercise training alone, or associated with a high-protein diet, on the exercise tolerance, muscle and pulmonary functions, and quality of life of LOPD patients on long term ERT. Methods: The patients were asked to participate to a crossover randomized study comprehending a control period (free diet, no exercise) followed by 2 intervention periods: exercise or exercise + diet, each lasting 26 weeks and separated by 13 weeks washout periods. Exercise training included moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on a cycle ergometer, stretching and balance exercises, strength training. The diet was composed by 25-30% protein, 30-35% carbohydrate and 35-40% fat. Before and after each period patients were assessed for: exercise tolerance test on a cycle-ergometer, serum muscle enzymes, pulmonary function tests and SF36 questionnaire for quality of life. Compliance was evaluated by training and dietary diaries. Patients were contacted weekly by researchers to optimize adherence to treatments. Results: Thirteen LOPD patients, median age 49 ± 11 years, under chronic ERT (median 6.0 ± 4.0 years) were recruited. Peak aerobic power (peak pulmonary O2 uptake) decreased after control, whereas it increased after exercise, and more markedlyafter exercise + diet. Serum levels of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) significantly decreased after exercise + diet; both creatine kinase (CK) and LDH levels were significantly reduced after exercise + diet compared to exercise. Pulmonary function showed no changes after control and exercise, whereas a significant improvement of forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1) was observed after exercise + diet. SF36 showed a slight improvement in the "mental component"scale after exercise, and a significant improvement in "general health"and "vitality"after exercise + diet. The compliance to prescriptions was higher than 70% for both diet and exercise. Conclusions: Exercise tolerance (as evaluated by peak aerobic power) showed a tendency to decrease in LOPD patients on long term ERT. Exercise training, particularly if combined with high-protein diet, could reverse this decrease and result in an improvement, which was accompanied by improved quality of life. The association of the two lifestyle interventions resulted also in a reduction of muscle enzyme levels and improved pulmonary function.
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