This Brain Parasite Is Manipulating You -- And You Probably Don't Know (1/2)
Toxoplasma. No, it's not a character in Ghostbusters.
That's a scary name for a brain parasite, if you ask me. That being said, the idea of a ‘brain parasite’ is scary in and of itself!
What's more scary, though, is that this particular foodborne brain parasite has already infected 25% of all adult Americans. And yet, like me, I’d bet you've never heard of it!
Now for a touch of good news: being infected by this parasite is typically a benign condition… that is, so long as your immune system keeps it at bay. Some studies have found it in people with HIV/AIDS, for instance, - a disease that compromises the immune system
But that doesn't negate the fact that, when sufficiently triggered, it can lead to psiquiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and even suicidal tendencies.
But before I propose any serious correlation that might get me in trouble with the scientific community, let's look at this basic assumption: parasites can alter the behavior of hosts, right?
Scientists have seen this with ants who become infected by so-called 'enslaver' funghi, which come to control the ant and lead it to bite the ground, allowingthe fungus to emerge from the ant's head and become easily dispersed by the wind.
Dr. Greger from nutritionfacts.org suggests that toxoplasma could perform parasitic manipulation in more complex organisms, in an effort to increase its likelihood of getting caught by predators. Here's another example:
We know mice and cats have a natural prey-predator link. Hence, mice are averse to cat odours.
Enter, toxoplasma. The condition favored by this parasite makes the mice attracted to cat odour, and so the parasite gets transmitted when mice get eaten.
Not only that, toxoplasma has been taken as a motor-impairing parasite: making the mice unable to escape when stalked by predators.
If you've been following this article, you might have a clue: it makes you more likely to take risks. Specifically, they boost your dopamine*levels, making you more willing not to care about getting into a traffic accident, consume large quantities of alcohol, and even attempting suicide.
According to nutritionfacts.org, Toxoplasma (or Toxoplasma Gondii) contains an anzyme that is capable of producing dopamine that is then released into our brain tissue. High levels of dopamineis a key symptom for Schizophrenia disorder & 50 studies have supported this relationship.
So maybe it is better for our own good to keep this parasite at bay, even if we already have it within ourselves. You can also check the playlist I compiled about Toxoplasmosis and its effects on the brain!
In the next part of this blog post, I will discuss some possible foods (and other daily activities) you can do to avoid triggering this latent and unknown (yet not ver popular) parasite. Stay tuned!
The statements written in this article do not reflect VegReady's opinion nor views in the matter of neurological conditions.