Eating foie gras may cause mad cow-like disease
June 19, 2007

Consumption of foie gras can transmit amyloidosis, a disease which is sometimes manifested as mad cow or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), reports a new study in early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers say their results provide the first evidence that a food product can hasten the development of amyloids.

"It is not known if there is an increase of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes or other amyloid-related disease in people who have eaten foie gras," said Dr. Alan, director of the Human Immunology and Cancer/Alzheimer's Disease and Amyloid-Related Disorders Research Program at University of Tennessee at Knoxville and lead author of the study. "Our study looked at the existence of amyloid fibrils in foie gras and showed that it could accelerate the development of AA amyloidosis in susceptible mice. Perhaps people with a family history of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or other amyloid-associated diseases should avoid consuming foie gras and other foods that may be contaminated with fibrils."

Amyloidosis results from the deposit of normal or mutated proteins into vital organs like the heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas and brain.

"This process leads to organ failure and, eventually, death. There are many types of amyloid-related diseases in addition to rheumatoid arthritis, such as Alzheimer's disease, adult-onset (type-2) diabetes and an illness related to multiple myeloma called primary or AL amyloidosis," explained a release from the University of Tennessee.

Solomon's team analyzed commercially available foie gras from the U.S. and France and found that it contained a type of amyloid that is increased in force-fed birds, like geese and ducks fattened for foie gras production. They found that mice prone to develop AA amyloidosis developed extensive amyloid deposits in the liver, spleen, intestine and other organs after they were injected or fed amyloid extracted from foie gras.

"Eating foie gras probably won't cause a disease in someone who isn't genetically predisposed to it," said Solomon. "More critical is determining what causes these diseases in the first place and, most important, developing new means of diagnosis and treatment designed to rid the body of harmful amyloid deposits or preventing them from occurring or progressing. Indeed, this is the very focus of the work of my team at the University of Tennessee, and we are all deeply committed to achieving this goal. I am hopeful that our research efforts and those of other scientists throughout the world will help those afflicted with these diseases, which exert such a devastating toll on patients and family members alike."

CITATION: Alan Solomon *, Tina Richey *, Charles L. Murphy *, Deborah T. Weiss *, Jonathan S. Wall *, Gunilla T. Westermark , and Per Westermark (2007) Amyloidogenic potential of foie gras. PNAS June 19, 2007

This article is based on a news release from the University of Tennessee.


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CITATION: (June 19, 2007).

Eating foie gras may cause mad cow-like disease.