Who knew when I mailed out yesterday’s newsletter on Alzheimer’s and Dementia that I would receive so many emails from around the world asking about the connection between Alzheimer’s and mad cow disease — or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease as it is called in humans.
When people are alive and suffering, the two conditions (Alzheimer’s and CJD) could easily be confused — but only for a short period of time. CJD has a much faster progression once it manifests than Alzheimer’s. Also upon death and autopsy, they are very distinct. The autopsy brooks no confusion.
At the moment, there is no evidence of large scale CJD either as a result of contaminated meat, or for any reason for that matter. There certainly could be a long incubation period for CJD, which would mean a large increase in the number of cases in the coming years, but so far no actual evidence that this is happening. And in fact, it’s worth noting that in those case where it does seem to occur, from eating contaminated game animals for example, the incubation period seems to be extremely short, not long.
Bottom line: it’s a terrifying theory, and it may yet prove to be true — but for the moment, there is no convincing evidence that it is actually happening. Now, is is possible that all evidence concerning CJD is being systematically suppressed by governments and doctors and oversight committees all over the world. Sure? But considering how incompetent governments are at everything else they do, it seems more than unlikely.
That said, there are still lots of reasons for not eating large amounts of commercial meat including everything from exposure to artificial growth hormones, xenoestrogens, antibiotics, and an increased risk of cancer and osteoporosis. With all that on the dinner table, why even worry about CJD? On the other hand, the good news is that you probably don’t have to worry about an increased risk of heart disease.