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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Dawn Handschuh

According to the USDA nutrient database, brains are the #1 source of cholesterol. Organ meats also tend to be high in heavy metals, as well as the amino acid ergothioneine.

Heavy Metals in Organ Meats

In the ongoing quest to determine the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have noted that victims of the disease have higher levels of copper in their blood, in their brain, and in the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding their brain.

Metals like iron and copper are strongly concentrated within the plaques and tangles that are the hallmark of the Alzheimer’s brain, and organ meats and shellfish are the richest food sources of copper. (Copper and iron are also often found in multi-vitamin supplements.)

Cadmium is another highly toxic metal that remains in the body for years, because our bodies have no efficient way to dispose of it. Cadmium may contribute to a range of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. One Long Island study indicated that roughly 40% of breast cancers in the nation may be associated with elevated cadmium levels.

The highest levels of cadmium are found in organ meats, though cigarette smoke and seafood consumption are other primary sources. Because organ meats make up a relatively small portion of most people’s diets, grains and vegetables actually end up contributing the largest amount. Yet, cadmium absorption from plant-based foods may be much lower than cadmium bioavailability in animal products.

Organ Meats and Gout

Organ meats can be the culprit in gout, a form of arthritis made painful by needle-sharp crystals of uric acid in the joints, which comes from the breakdown of purines. While there’s no such thing as a purine-free diet, high-purine foods include meat—especially organ meats. 

 

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