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Scientists Establish Link Between Foie Gras and Disease

A University of Tennessee researcher has discovered an association between foie gras prepared from goose or duck liver and the type of amyloid found in rheumatoid arthritis or tuberculosis.

Dr. Alan Solomon, a Professor at the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine in Knoxville, says that the new experimental data provides the first is the first evidence that a food product can hasten amyloid development.

The study report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, records that amyloidosis is a disease process that involves the deposit of normal or mutated proteins that have become misfolded. It further says that in unstable state, such proteins from fibrils that are deposited into vital organs like the heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas and brain, which may lead to organ failure and eventually death.

Alzheimer's disease, adult-onset (type-2) diabetes, and an illness related to multiple myeloma called primary or AL amyloidosis are the other types of amyloid-related diseases.

During the course of study, Dr. Solomon and his colleagues injected or fed amyloid extracted from foie gras to mice prone to develop AA amyloidosis. They found that a majority of the animals had developed extensive amyloid deposits in the liver, spleen, intestine, and other organs within a period of eight weeks.

The researchers concluded that this and perhaps other forms of amyloidosis might be transmissible, like "mad cow" and other related diseases. They further state that no other infectious sources of food products have been found until now. "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," he said.

He further said that many researchers are of the opinion that meat derived from sheep and seemingly healthy cattle may represent other dietary sources of this material. He also said that people develop disease for many reasons. "Eating foie gras probably won't cause a disease in someone who isn't genetically predisposed to it," Solomon explained.

"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," he added.


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