Mounting research shows there’s a compelling link between a particular kind of protein and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. What’s so intriguing about that is this protein, called TDP-43, behaves like toxic and infectious proteins known as prions, which are responsible for the brain destruction that occurs in Mad Cow and Chronic Wasting Disease;1 two types of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Mad Cow Disease affects cows, while Chronic Wasting Disease is a neurological disease found in deer and elk. As explained in Scientific American:2
“Prions are misshapen yet durable versions of proteins normally present in nerve cells that cause like proteins to misfold and clump together, starting a chain reaction that eventually consumes entire brain regions.
In the past 15 years, scientists have learned that such a process may be at work not only in mad cow and other exotic diseases but also in major neurodegenerative disorders…”
As Many as Half of Alzheimer’s Patients Have Prion-Like Proteins
According to research3 published in 2011, TDP-43 pathology is detected in 25-50 percent of Alzheimer’s patients, particularly in those with hippocampal sclerosis, characterized by selective loss of neurons in the hippocampus, which is associated with memory loss. Research presented at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) also revealed Alzheimer’s patients with TDP-43 were 10 times more likely to have been cognitively impaired at death than those without it.4,5 But how do you end up with TDP-43?
CAFO—A Common Denominator for Mad Cow and Chronic Wasting Disease
While some prions6 serve beneficial cell functions; others, acting like an infectious agent, are known to cause neurodegeneration. TDP-43 is in this latter category.
The common denominator between Mad Cow and Chronic Wasting Disease7 is forcing natural herbivores to eat animal parts, so is it possible humans are being infected with TDP-43 via contaminated meats?
The evidence is certainly suggestive, and from my perspective, it’s just one more reason to avoid all meats from livestock raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Remember that nearly all meat in restaurants are from CAFO animals.
CAFOs are major warehouse-style growing facilities where animals are crowded together by the thousands, and fed a completely unnatural diet of glyphosate-containing genetically engineered (GE) grains mixed with antibiotics. That alone is a recipe for out-of-control spread of disease, both among animals and humans.
When you add in the practice of feeding herbivores meat and animal byproducts, the situation can become even more complex and problematic.
Mad Cow is a man-made plague, created by a CAFO system that “cannibalizes” herbivores, and it can spread like wildfire as the remains of a single diseased animal may contaminate feed given to thousands of animals in different locations.
We now know that one of the primary modes of transmission of Mad Cow Disease is by feeding cows bone meal and waste products from other cattle infected with the disease. As a result, it’s now illegal to feed beef-based products to cows.
However, in its limited wisdom the beef industry still uses a feed product known as “chicken litter,” and that too can introduce Mad Cow disease into our food system.
Chicken litter consists of a rendered down mix of chicken manure, dead chickens, feathers, and spilled chicken feed—the latter of which includes cow meat and bone meal, the very ingredients that are supposed to be off limits for cows.
Pigs, chickens, and turkeys can also be fed cattle byproducts, and current laws permit byproducts of those animals to be fed back to cattle8 as well. This is a second loophole that can allow Mad Cow agents to infect healthy cattle—and you, should you end up eating any of these infected meats.
Similarly, Chronic Wasting Disease is the result of domesticating wild animals and feeding them an unnatural diet. The disease is often imported and spread via game farm animals.
Infected deer and elk shed the infectious prions in saliva and urine, starting around three months after being infected. They remain contagious for the remainder of their life, contaminating land and water as they go along.
Game farms cater to hunters who are more or less guaranteed a kill, and the potential for these infectious prions to spread to humans through consumption of infected game animals is another serious concern.9,10
The CAFO-Alzheimer’s Connection
If you eat meat from a cow infected with Mad Cow Disease, you can contract the human version of the disease, known as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). As noted by Center for Food Safety,11 which reported on the 2012 Mad Cow outbreak:
“Tissue from infected cows’ central nervous systems (including brain or spinal cord) is the most infectious part of a cow. Such tissue may be found in hot dogs, taco fillings, bologna, and other products containing gelatin, and ground or chopped meat.
People who eat contaminated beef products are at risk of contracting the human version of mad cow disease… The disease slowly eats holes in the brain over a matter of years, turning it sponge-like, and invariably results in death…
The incubation period for ‘mad cow’ disease in cattle is thought to be approximately five years; it may be latent in humans for a decade or more before manifesting itself.”
Just last year, Mad Cow claimed the life of a Texas man—the fourth American victim of the disease.12 Symptoms of vCJD are similar to Alzheimer’s and include staggering, memory loss, impaired vision, and dementia,13 and there’s no known cure.
An intriguing suggestion is that Alzheimer’s is a slower moving version of Mad Cow disease, acquired by eating contaminated CAFO meats… TDP-43 might also “predispose” you to Parkinson’s, or Lou Gehrig’s, just as easily as Alzheimer’s. Which disease ends up materializing may depend on the area of your brain the proteins attack. As noted in a 2014 AlzForum.org article:14
“Pathological TDP-43 appears to follow a set route through the nervous system, and what that route is depends on the disease at hand. Two new papers in Acta Neuropathologica add TDP-43 itineraries for Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration [FTLD] to a previously published staging scheme for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.15
While the starting points and paths taken differ, the disease-specific routes suggest that TDP-43 travels from neuron to neuron along axonal highways… The TDP-43 stages fit with the ongoing theme in neurodegeneration research that these diseases are progressive not only over time, but also in space, as pathological proteins spread throughout the nervous system…
Overall… the FTLD pathology progressed from the front of the brain to the back. This contrasted with the ALS staging system, which began in the motor cortex at the brain’s apex and moved downward and forward from there. ‘The spreading mechanisms could be very similar, but the early focus of pathology seems to be different [between ALS and FTLD]…’”
The Case for Foodborne Alzheimer’s
The idea that neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) may be spread via CAFO foods goes back at least a decade. A 2005 study16 published in the journal Medical Hypotheses, titled: Thinking the unthinkable: Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Mad Cow disease: The age-related reemergence of virulent, foodborne, bovine tuberculosis or losing your mind for the sake of a shake or burger, states:
“In the opinion of experts, ample justification exists for considering a similar pathogenesis for Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and the other spongiform encephalopathies such as Mad Cow disease. In fact, Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Alzheimer’s often coexist and at this point are thought to differ merely by time-dependent physical changes. A recent study links up to 13 percent of all ‘Alzheimer’s’ victims as really having Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.” [Emphasis mine]
The researchers also note that bovine tuberculosis serves as a vector for human Mad Cow Disease. Bovine tuberculosis (caused by Mycobacterium bovis and M. avium-intracellulare or paratuberculosis) is one of the most prevalent disease threats in American CAFOs, and the researchers quote USDA data suggesting that anywhere from 20-40 percent of American dairy herds are infected at any given time!
According to the authors:
“The health risk for milk tainted with M. bovis has been known for decades and there was a time not so long ago when ‘tuberculin-tested’ was printed on every milk container. Schliesser stated that meat from tuberculous animals may also constitute a significant risk of infection.
At the turn of the 20th century, 25 percent of the many US deaths from TB in adults were caused by M. bovis. Dairy products aside, when past and present meat consumption are factored in, there is three times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in meat eaters as opposed to vegetarians.
The investigation into the causal trail for Creutzfeldt-Jakob, indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s except for its shorter, lethal course might have grown cold where it not for Roel’s and others who linked mad cow in cattle with M. bovis and related paratuberculosis on clinical, pathologic, and epidemiological grounds.
The southwest of the UK, the very cradle of British BSE and CJD outbreaks, saw an exponential increase in bovine tuberculosis just prior to it’s spongiform outbreaks. All of this brings up the unthinkable: that Alzheimer’s, Cruetzfeldt-Jackob, and Mad Cow Disease might just be caused by eating the meat or dairy in consumer products or feed.” [Emphasis mine]
A Healthy Diet for Brain Health: Choose Your Foods Wisely
Could Alzheimer’s disease, which now is the third leading cause of death in the US, may be the result of a slower-acting form of Mad Cow-or Chronic Wasting Disease? As shocking as that may sound, the links between the diseases are compelling, and they all point to one main culprit: factory farming practices, which eliminate hygiene and replace animals’ natural diets with unnatural grain diets, into which animal by-products are mixed in.
This sets in motion a disease-producing cycle that can only be stopped by reverting back to farming according to natures design. The bottom line is, an animal’s diet matters greatly. You cannot judge the benefits of the animal’s diet based on added weight gain or added milk production alone! There can be all sorts of unforeseen ramifications when you alter the natural course of nature, including man-made scourges like Mad Cow and Chronic Wasting Disease.
Organic, grass-fed, and finished meat that is humanely raised and butchered is really about the only type of meat that is healthy to eat. The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:
|Local Harvest||This Web site will help you find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies|
|Eat Wild||With more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, Eatwild’s Directory of Farms is one of the most comprehensive sources for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada|
|Farmers’ Markets||A national listing of farmers’ markets|
|Eat Well Guide: Wherever you are, Eat Well||The Guide is a free online directory of more than 25,000 restaurants, farms, stores, farmers’ markets, CSAs, and other sources of local, sustainably produced food throughout the US.|
|Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture||CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms|
|FoodRoutes||The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA’s, and markets near you|