Mad Cow, Mad Pig, and Thyroid Risks

Mad Cow, Mad Pig,
and Thyroid Risks

Could food supplements and medications be inadvertent media for the spread of prion based brain diseases? Multiple sources would suggest this is possible, even likely, due to the use of animal gelatins. This probability goes up even more when the medication itself is a glandular extract.


BSE / Mad Cow / TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies) are NOT a small topic!
  • Nobel Prize awarded to Carleton Gajdusek for Kuru/TSE research
  • Nobel Prize awarded to Stanley Prusiner for TSE/Prion research
  • Pulitzer prize winning author Richard Rhodes wrote "Deadly Feasts" on the controversy ISBN 0-684-84425-7 (Mentioned on 259 web pages)
  • Oprah dedicated a show to BSE/Mad Cow, was sued by Texas cattlemen, Courts upheld her 1st Amendment right to Freedom of Speech!
  • Cows, Sheep, Pigs, Mink, Humans have all caught and died of TSE's
  • Prions can not be killed by mere boiling or cooking
  • Over 200,000 deaths/year by 2015 predicted by Prof. Lacey (below)
  • Current official death toll is 81 in England, 2 in France (AP News, 11/10/2000)
  • Over 30,700 web pages mention "mad cow" (AltaVista)
  • Over 9,000 page use the technical term "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy"
  • Web pages on Chaperonins, chemicals possibly preventing the mis-folding of proteins which are the basis for TSE's and Alzheimer's, jumped from 2 to over 6,000 in one year!
  • France banned sale of beef thyroid glands in November, 2000, though other bans were applicable earlier.
  • Many French towns ban beef use in school cafeterias
  • And of course, in 2001, we had the big scare, and the big lie.
Clearly, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies, such as BSE and CJD (one human form,) are a topic of some controversy, one we should all become more aware of. Yet those who profit strive to censor the topic.

Mad Cow Censorship

Some questions were raised on the Thyroid mailing list out of StJohns.EDU regarding where the various natural thyroid supplements come from, and how safe they may be with respect to Mad Cow Disease. The basic text of this article was conveniently "discarded" by the moderator, as it seems are a number posts questioning the safety of natural thyroid extracts, or discussing non-prescription alternatives to them. Such pro-prescription medication biases are not new to certain moderated mailing lists... some of which may be rabidly pro something, others against, at the whims of biased or subsidized moderators. (The biases of that list are mild, compared to some other lists, such as an ozone list several years back.) Always look for biases when considering internet, and any other information sources.

Researchers on BSE / TSE say this kind of censorship is not new. Dr. Harash Narang, a British microbiologist and CJD researcher, says he first detected variant CJD in humans back in 1988. He claims that he was ordered to stop work on BSE in 1990, and subsequently "laid off". He believes that British authorities have blocked and undermined such research and detection efforts. (British press articles)

Thyroid Supplements and Mad Cow / BSE

There are natural thyroid extracts, such as Armour Thyroid, and synthetics such as Cytomel and Synthroid. The natural ones are taken from the thyroid glands of animals, such as pigs.

On page 220 of Rhodes' book, Nobel Price winner Dr. Carleton Gajdusek is quoted saying pigs are routinely slaughtered before the disease would become evident in them. Carleton Gajdusek is one of the foremost researchers of Kuru and other "Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies", TSE, of which Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, Scrapie, CJD, and Kuru are variants.

In the book, Dr. Gajdusek is quoted: "the disease hasn't turned up in pigs only because you don't keep pigs alive for seven or eight years; they're killed after two or three years at the most. When we kept pigs we'd inoculated in our laboratory for eight years, they came down with scrapie. [a TSE variant] Probably all the pigs in England are infected. And that means not only pork, it means your pigskin wallet. It means catgut surgical suture, because that's made of pig tissue. All the chickens fed on meat-and-bone meal; they're probably infected. You put that stuff in a chicken and it goes right through"... And in America, beef cattle are killed at or before age two, before they are likely to show outward symptoms. (Page 228)

Mad Cow in America

In America, chicken excreta is fed to cattle as a good source of nitrogen. (Page 258.) As for the American FDA's ban on feeding meat and animal by-products to cattle, Rhodes writes "That's a ban with exclusions big enough to drive a cortege of hearses through." Their own TSE advisory committee urged the FDA take stronger measures. (Page 257.)

According to the book, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy has been detected in America, and not just in cattle; the American form is yet another variant TSE, which does not cause the staggers and other behaviors found in British cattle, but results in a more "sedate" collapse of the victim, referred to as "downer cattle". The nature of the brain damage is also distinct; a spongiform with differently shaped and oriented vacancies. Other forms have been transmitted via eating wild squirrels, and wild bear. Some zoos have lost animals to TSE's.

Human Epidemic

Dr. John Pattison, Chairman of the British government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), Dean of the University College of London Medical School, believes 500,000 people may already be incubating CJD in Britain. [Dr. Alsleben.] Dr. Alsleben, in his excellent Mad Cow web site, states that prions can be found in white blood cells contaminating milk, and even in the animal grease used in lipstick. (URL at end)

And now, a test has been developed for testing urine for prions, clearly showing that all beef products will have the prions, not just the brain, where damage is evident ONLY because dead brain cells are not replaced.

Professor Richard Lacey of the Microbiology Department of Chapel Allerton Hospital, Leeds, points out on page 222 of the book that "there was no certainty that the source of infection had been cut off."... "'If it seems that the incubation-period average for CJD in humans begins to be about twenty five years, maybe thirty years,' he told me grimly, 'then the peak human epidemic will come around the year 2015. If the current numbers of variant CJD cases [the main human TSE,] increases by fifty percent per year compound, as they well might, that would take it to about two hundred thousand cases a year by then'. Human cases, that is 200,000 deaths per year" (In Britain.)

Others suggest that 5% OR MORE of the Alzheimer's cases in America may be due to CJD and other TSE variants. If so, are we already seeing the beginning of a growing tide of TSE related deaths?

Limiting Factors

It is noted that amongst the Fore, the cannibals who got kuru, another TSE variant similar to CJD, only some one percent of the population seemed affected.

This one percent figure suggests a genetic bias, and some genetic biases have been detected. This may serve as a model for predicting human death rates. Evidence suggest a one in a million rate of spontaneous occurrence among susceptible species. Once inserted into a food chain that recycles animal protein, one in a hundred may get it.

In America, that one percent would translate to well over two and a half million slow, expensive deaths, a far worse epidemic than AIDS! But... not the end of civilization as we know it.

One is reminded that there have been many plagues in human history; plagues like the Black Plague, the Justinian Plague, and many others. Humanity has thus far survived, even if reduced in numbers. No need to panic; just act wisely.

Prions and Counters

Several Prion variants have been found, some of which act quickly, some of which act far more slowly, so the 25 year estimate may be considerably off. More recent estimates talk of a 10 to 18 year time frame, based on some deaths in England.

There is also recent research on chaperonins, biochemicals that assist in folding proteins, which may be related to resistance to prion diseases. (Prion diseases are believed to involve folding of proteins, and what is similar to crystal growth of the mis-folded proteins.) See and look up chaperonin at , a term that only had two pages on the web last year, and now has over six thousand!

Will we find a cure for Spongiform Encephalopathy? Unlikely, since the spongiform phase is caused by massive death of neural tissue; tissue which can not regrow. That said, we might yet find ways of preventing the degeneration where it has not already occurred. So caution might be well advised.


Twenty five years incubation time is a long time.... If one ends up with thyroid supplements in one's late thirties, it might be age 65 when some of the more noticeable effects begin to become evident. Those with less resistant genetics may display effects much sooner. Others may die of other dis-eases before the effects of TSE would become clearly visible. And most... may even avoid coming down with the disease.

And yet... Science News ran an article on Alzheimer's research in which some researchers claimed they could often detect the condition decades early simply by noting the manner of speech and writing of a person. People with pre-Alzheimer's conditions seem to rely more on lists and relationships, than logic and cause-and-effect reasoning about the world. They also tend to write shorter, simpler sentences long before clinical neurological deficits become evident. (Research was done using nuns, comparing their original statements of intent to become nuns, with their conditions decades later. The study made the cover of Time magazine on May 14, 2001)

Is Alzheimer's a form of TSE? Some would say yes, others would say no. And still others have suggested many cases of Alzheimer's are really TSE, but not all. The lesions in the brain are similar, but not identical.

Weigh the Risks

We must all weigh risks v.s. benefits ourselves. I am not a doctor, I can not advise you; you have to think for yourself. Like Oprah, I have stopped eating beef; as well as all other animal meats and animal products like gelatin. I dump the contents of all my gelatin capsules into a spoon, and discard the empty capsules. I also avoid "ranched" fish like catfish and salmon. Is that enough? I don't know. With luck, I may never find out.

A one percent rate sounds considerably better than other estimates I have run across. However, the real question I have is, what are the subtle effects long before the final destruction? If these prions are indeed the rod-like structures researcher Patricia Merz describes on page 156, then they would likely impede cellular machinery long before they became long enough to break cell membranes and kill the cells. Thus it is possible that long before that final break, subtle neurological effects could become evident. Dr. Merz findings of prions in spleen tissue and elsewhere is quite disturbing, as it suggests prions may travel freely in the blood of these animals, and thus would imply that all tissue is likely to harbor some prions, not just brain tissue. Thus, over 25 million of us may be at grave risk to our health; and our relatives, at risk for extreme emotional and financial stresses as they contribute to our care as we slowly go mad and die of CJD.

Your health is your responsibility, not your doctor's. It is you who must decide what behaviors, and risks, are acceptable to you.

Books and Resources

  • "Deadly Feasts", by Pulitzer prize winner Richard Rhodes. ISBN0-684-84425-7. Worth reading!
  • Mentioned by Rhodes as a valuable current record on this developing topic.
  • Urine test reprint A PDF file.
  • Dr. Harry Alsleben, a preventative medicine researcher, calls this "Our Greatest Biological Catastrophe", His excellent web site is dedicated to warning people about prion diseases; and exposing the policies that warn "officials", while attempting to minimize public concerns and short term financial impact to industry. What is more, he use to sell animal collagen products. He stopped and accepted the financial loss when he learned about BSE. I salute him for his responsible actions.
  • Resources from PBS - Nova The Brain Eaters episode on Mad Cow disease. (Presumably, this site will not be up forever.)
  • Endocrine Disorders health directory

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