Foie Gras: Does the taste outweigh the risk?

Sunday, December 29, 2013
Foie Gras: Does the taste outweigh the risk?

Foie gras (fat liver) is considered a major part of haute cuisine in France. Whether made from geese or from ducks, foie gras represents luxury in a plate that you would never dare to skip at fancy restaurants. Yet, behind the exquisite delicacy of foie gras and the memorable experience every bite provides, lie a number of health hazards worth noting. Some of these health hazards have driven a few places to ban foie gras, such as Germany, Denmark, Italy, the UK, Chicago, and California.


What you never wanted to know about foie gras:

Sorry to disappoint all you dieters out there, but foie gras is definitely not a diet item that you can indulge in without guilt! One tablespoon of foie gras, which barely provides any satisfaction, has around 60 calories. The serving size per person is usually 50g, which means that 1 serving has 200 calories.


With the high caloric content of foie gras comes the high amount of cholesterol that it provides: 1 serving (around 50g) provides 66mg of cholesterol, which is 22% the recommendation for healthy people and 33% the recommendation for people at risk of heart disease. In addition to that, almost all calories come from fat, regardless of whether it is good fat or bad fat. The huge amount of calories has left no room for negotiation!


If calories, fat, and cholesterol aren’t enough to stop you from indulging in foie gras, then you probably will need to reconsider, especially if you are an animal rights activist! In order to get foie gras to your plate, the process involves purposefully fattening ducks and geese through force feeding; ducks and geese are force fed corn mash several times a day through a tube down their throat to increase the size of the liver 6 to 10 times, which eventually presses on the lungs of the birds, making breathing difficult.  This is unethical from the perspective of animal rights activists.


From a human health perspective, the process of fattening the liver of birds exposes them to stress; as a result amyloids are produced. When we eat foie gras, amyloids accumulate in our bodies and damage our kidneys, heart, pancreas, and brain… and may lead to disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, and Alzheimer’s. Although the effect of amyloids is still under study, some people may need to avoid consuming foie gras. These individuals are those who are susceptible to amyloidosis, such as those who suffer from tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteomyelitis, or those who undergo hemodialysis or who have a family history of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis.


So does the taste outweigh these risks? The risks are many, but at the same time, the taste is irresistible. The decision will be left up to you and your palate!