Food Poisoning Can Have Surprising, Terrible Consequences Years Later

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Many believe food poisoning to be one of the most unpleasant things in life to have to endure. Thankfully, after a day or two of some terrible trips to the bathroom, most people are on the mend. However, new research shows that the short illness actually can have devastating effects years later. According to scientists at Charles University in the Czech Republic, if you've suffered from food poisoning, you are more likely to have poor memory and poor learning skills, and your chances of developing schizophrenia increase.

Previous studies noticed these effects, but they seemed more short term and were written off as people taking time to get back to normal after a sickness. A new study published in the journal Folia Parasitologica points out though that that is not the case, and personality changes can take place long after recovery.

The study examined Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that causes nearly a million cases of food poisoning annually, typically from eating undercooked pork, lamb and venison, but it is also found in contaminated water and the poop of sick cats. Toxoplasma might just cause a mild infection in healthy people, but others will suffer the usual symptoms of food poisoning. Either way and worst of all, the parasite doesn't leave your body when you get better, rather it stays with you for life. That might explain why it has lasting cognitive effects.

The study surveyed nearly 8,000 people with an average age of 42. Nearly 1,000 had tested positive for toxoplasma. All participants performed a variety of tests that measured memory and cognitive abilities, and those who had previously had toxoplasmosis showed slower reaction times and less accurate responses. Because these effects happened after any physical symptoms had ended, the authors concluded that the parasite causes chronic issues.

It's not the first study to show that either. One from 2021 saw people who had toxoplasmosis were 2.8 times more likely to develop dementia, and a 2022 study saw those infected with the parasite were more likely to develop schizophrenia. As to why, scientists are unsure. One theorized that the parasite alters brain chemicals that control memory, while others think the parasite causes a small but consistent immune response which wears down the brain. Whatever it is, let it be a reminder to you to always make sure your food is properly cooked.

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