The popular delicacy foie gras (which is French for “fat liver”) is produced in a way that animal rights activists insist is barbaric. Ducks and geese are force-fed corn mash twice a day, through a tube that is inserted into the oesophagus. The birds are slaughtered 2-3 weeks later, and their engorged livers are then removed, to be sold whole or for use in making pâté, mousse or parfait.
But it seems that the slaughtered birds may be the ones who have the last laugh - researchers from the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, in collaboration with a group from Uppsala University in Sweden, have found a potential link between foie gras consumption and the development of a number of amyloidogenic diseases.
The amyloidogenic diseases include Alzheimer’s Disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), tuberculosis, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. They are termed “amyloidogenic” because they all involve a process called amyloidosis, whereby genetic mutations lead to the synthesis of abnormally folded and insoluble proteins which accumulate within or around cells and interfere with their function. In all the amyloidogenic diseases, the mutated proteins are believed to accumulate by a process called nucleation (or “seeding”)