How would you respond if someone told you chemicals you consume are causing physical and mental damage to your brain and body? What if you knew that these chemicals were affecting your children’s nervous systems and emotional development? Would you continue to consume these chemicals if you found they could cause and exacerbate conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Austism, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS? Paying attention to what we put in our bodies is important not only for physical health, but mental health as well. This post will detail the effects of excitotoxins on our brains, and thus the connection and impact to the body.
What we don’t know about Excitotoxins
Not many people have heard of the term “excitotoxins,” let alone know their effect in our lives. However, most of us have heard the saying “we become what we eat.” Excitotoxins are additives in food and drink such as artificial sweeteners and monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is a taste enhancer that has been added to food in the U.S. since after World War II. Few suspected that “taste additive,” would cause any harm in humans, but by the end of the 1960’s, research data had begun to surface dictating the harm in the human body. Until this time, neuroscientists had believed that glutamate supplied the brain with energy.
Upon the learnings of the harm of MSG, food producers began adding a substance known as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” instead of pure MSG. However this substance is proving to be even more dangerous than MSG, as it contains even more excitotoxins (glutamate, aspartate, and cysteic acid) in addition to added MSG.
A test in 1957, conducted by Lucas and Newhouse, tested MSG on infant mice. When they examined the eye tissue of the mice, they discovered that MSG had destroyed all the nerve cells within the inner layers of the retina. Ten years later, Dr. John W. Olney, a neuroscientist, also discovered that MSG destroyed parts of the brain in the hypothalamus after only a single dose. Despite the discovery, MSG as well as other artificial sweeteners continued to be added to food, cookbooks, and even recipes for baby food.
More and more diseases of the nervous system such as brain damage, seizures, and migraine headaches, are being linked back to excitotoxin build up in the brain.
How Excitotoxins Work
Excitotoxins such as MSG, NatruSweet, and aspartame increase the natural levels of glutamate and aspartate found in our brain and spinal cord. When these levels rise above natural levels, they become deadly toxins to the neurons in our brains and body.
These neurons then become extremely “excited” and if provided in large enough doses, the neurons can degenerate and die.
As these neurons break down, a destructive chain reaction process begins. Particles, known as “free radicals,” begin to form that damage everything they come in contact with. Our cells and genes within our body begin to be attacked and broken down from these free radicals.
The Effects of Excitotoxins on Babies
The developing brain is one of the most sensitive and vulnerable of all the organs. While the baby is still in the uterus, it is facing the greatest levels of sensitivity.
The undeveloped enzymes that protect the developing brain are not yet in place while the child is in utero.
Could this be some of the cause of learning disorders such as autism and other psychological problems?
Based on experimental studies in animals, it can be assumed that when pregnant women eat and drink foods such as MSG, hydrolyzed vegatable protein, and other excitotoxins, they are passing potential risk onto the developing brain of their child that can last into its adolescence.
Testing and the FDA Argument
There are many contradictions in the testing involving of effects of aspartame and other excitotoxins. Before the official approval from the FDA in 1981 to allow aspartame in food and drinks, studies by companies such as NutraSweet aimed to prove there were no considerable harmful effects of aspartame in humans.
One such study conducted by NutraSweet, G.D. Searle, studied the effects in rats. 320 rats were fed a diet containing aspartame and 120 rats were fed a normal diet and used as the control. The results showed 12 of the aspartame fed rats developed brain tumors while none of the control rats did. This represented a 3.75% increase of brain tumors in the rats fed aspartame, which was 25x higher than the incidence of random brain tumors developing in rats. The test divided the rats receiving an aspartame diet into “low dose” and “high dose” groups. In the low dose group, five rats developed brain tumors. In the high dose group seven rats developed brain tumors. This showed the higher the dose of aspartame, the better the chance of brain tumors in rats.
When Dr. John Olney pointed the FDA to the test findings, he was told that the high incidents of tumors in the rats were the results of “spontaneous” development of brain tumors. The same way that humans randomly develop brain tumors.
Dr. Olney reviewed the rate at which rats spontaneously develop brain tumors and found that in seven studies using a total of 59,000 rats, only 0.08% developed brain tumors. The aspartame fed rats had a 47% higher incidence rate.
In 1975, the drug enforcement division of the Bureau of Foods investigated the NutraSweet G.D. Searle subsequent testing. It found “apparent irregularities in data collection and reporting practices.” The director of the FDA at the time stated that they found “sloppy” laboratory techniques and “clerical errors, mixed-up rats, rats not getting the drugs there are supposed to get, pathological specimens lost because of a variety of other errors – all to conspire to obscure positive findings and produce falsely negative results.”
It appears, understandably so, that NutraSweet was desperately working to protect their potential billion dollar payoff and ensure that the FDA gave them positive approval to sell to the market.
While these tests don’t 100% prove that aspartame causes brain tumors in humans, it is interesting to note that from 1973 to 1990 brain tumors in people over the age of six-five have increased 67%.
Conclusion on Excitotoxins
When MSG and other excitotoxins were first being added to foods for taste enhancements, glutamate receptors in the brain had not been discovered or fully understood. It was not known or understood that side effects could cause the death of brain cells.
Just as the market within the United States was becoming more health conscious, companies like NutraSweet were aiming to bring sugar substitutes into the markets. It was perfect timing. Americans and many others around the world began throwing back sodas they believed to be healthier with sugar substitutes rather than actual sugar. It wasn’t until later in time with more research, the harmful effects of MSG, aspartame, and other excitotoxins began to become known.
We live in a world in which there are so many contradictions and “pay to play” deals. It can often become hard to distinguish fact from fiction and right from wrong.
I have learned one thing in my self-discovery and search for truth and meaning in life – there is often so much more than lies beneath the surface. We need to do our own research and form our own conclusions. Much of the content of this post was pulled from the book “Excitotoxins – The Taste that Kills.” For much more insight, I highly recommend reading the book.
I believe the research shows the effects of excitotoxins on our brains has a far more harmful impact than what most major institutions want us to know.
Feel free to make your own conclusions upon doing your own research.
Please feel free to drop a comment, ask a question, or offer your perspective. There is much to gain from some “healthy” dialog in relation to this topic.
For now, please think twice before you reach for that diet soda or the “Equal” sugar substitute for your coffee. Your brain and your body will thank you in the long run.