Thursday, June 21, 2007

Does Foie Gras Cause Amyloidosis?

Left: Goose foie gras with calamansi lime-smoked soy condiment, calamansi lime marmalade, pickled mustard seeds and sauternes syrup. Right: Amyloidosis - medium power view showing amyloid between atrophic tubules.

By now, some of you have seen the headline:

Geese get revenge: Pate may cause rare disease

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Geese force-fed and then slaughtered for their livers may get their final revenge on people who favor the delicacy known as foie gras: It may transmit a little-known disease known as amyloidosis, researchers reported on Monday.

Tests on mice suggest the liver, popular in French cuisine which uses it to make pate de foie gras and other dishes, may cause the condition in animals that have a genetic susceptibility to such diseases, Alan Solomon of the University of Tennessee and colleagues reported.

That would suggest that amyloidosis can be transmitted via food in a way akin to brain diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, which can cause a rare version of mad cow disease in some people who eat affected meat products or brains.


Based on the findings of the study, Solomon and his team concluded that this and perhaps other forms of amyloidosis might be transmissible, like "mad cow" and other related diseases. Until now, no other infectious sources of food products have been found."

"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," cautioned Solomon. "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." Other investigators have reported that meat derived from sheep and seemingly healthy cattle may represent other dietary sources of this material, he said.

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