I know I react to foods, but it’s long been hard to sort out what the problems ones are.
So as a rule, I avoid any food that contains ingredients that are not themselves natural foods. That rules out virtually all processed foods.
Like brain damage? Keep eating processed foods with excitotoxins. That is, if the effects are real—the mainstream considers MSG and aspartame perfectly safe. And maybe one neurosurgeon just has it wrong. It’s so hard to tell these days, what with most all studies having financial interests that drive the results.
Excitotoxins are chemicals added to food to make them taste better. Aside from good 'ol sodium chloride (salt), that’s the only chemical I’m game for.
Expect the FDA to protect you? Don’t. Their de facto role is to protect industry from financial harm.
I’ve considered myself quite aware of what is healthy and what is not, but I recently started reading Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills @AMAZON, by Russell L. Blaylock MD and I am shocked at what I am hearing about common chemicals like aspartame (think diet drinks).
Excitotoxin: a substance added to foods and beverages that literally stimulates neurons to death, causing brain damage of varying degrees. Can be found in such ingredients as monosodium glutamate, aspartame (NutraSweet(R)), cysteine, hydrolyzed protein, and aspartic acid. Citing over five hundred scientific studies, Excitotoxins explores the dangers of aspartame, MSG, and other substances added to our food. This is an electrifying and important book that should be available to every American consumer
See an excellent book overview of “Excitoxins — The Taste that Kills”.
Foods to watch out for include: Soybean milk (naturally high in glutamate / often has hydrolyzed vegetable protein added to it), kombu, miso, and soy sauces all contain MSG.
Sources of MSG include: MSG, Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Vegetable Protein, Hydrolyzed Plan Protein, Plant Protein Extract, Sodium Caseinate, Calcium Caseinate, Yeast Extract, Textured Protein, Autolyzed Protein, Autolyzed Yeast, and Hydrolyzed Oat Flour.
Additives frequently containing MSG: Malt extract, Malt Flavoring, Bouillon, Broth, Stock, Flavoring, Natural Flavoring, Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring, Seasoning and Spices.
Additives that may contain MSG or Excitotoxins: Carrageenan, Enzymes, Soy Protein Concentrate, Soy Protein Isolate, and Protein Concentrate. Protease enzymes of various sources can release excitotoxin amino acids from food proteins.
by Russel L. Blaylock, M.D.
See also a video by Dr. Blaylock on excitotoxins and neurotoxins.
There are a growing number of clinicians and basic scientists who are convinced that a group of compounds called excitotoxins play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders including migraines, seizures, infections, abnormal neural development, certain endocrine disorders, neuropsychiatric disorders, learning disorders in children, AIDS dementia, episodic violence, lyme borreliosis, hepatic encephalopathy, specific types of obesity, and especially the neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and olivopontocerebellar degeneration.1
An enormous amount of both clinical and experimental evidence has accumulated over the past decade supporting this basic premise.2 Yet, the FDA still refuses to recognize the immediate and long term danger to the public caused by the practice of allowing various excitotoxins to be added to the food supply, such as MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and aspartame. The amount of these neurotoxins added to our food has increased enormously since their first introduction...
These toxins (excitotoxins) are not present in just a few foods, but rather in almost all processed foods. In many cases they are being added in disguised forms, such as natural flavoring, spices, yeast extract, textured protein, soy protein extract, etc. Experimentally, we know that when subtoxic levels of excitotoxins are given to animals in divided doses, they experience full toxicity, i.e., they are synergistic. Also, liquid forms of excitotoxins, as occurs in soups, gravies and diet soft drinks are more toxic than that added to solid foods. This is because they are more rapidly absorbed and reach higher blood levels.
It should also be appreciated that the effects of excitotoxin food additives generally are not dramatic. Some individuals may be especially sensitive and develop severe symptoms and even sudden death from cardiac irritability, but in most instances the effects are subtle and develop over a long period of time. While the food additives, MSG and aspartame, are probably not direct causes of the neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's dementia, Parkinson's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, they may well precipitate these disorders and certainly worsen their pathology as we shall see. It may be that many people with a 1 propensity for developing one of these diseases would never develop a full blown disorder had it not been for their exposure to high levels of food borne excitotoxin additives. Some may have had a very mild form of the disease had it not been for the exposure. Likewise, food borne excitotoxins may be harmful to those suffering from strokes, head injury and HIV infection and certainly should not be used in a hospital setting.
... Unfortunately, for the consumer, the corporate food processors not only continue to add MSG to our foods but they have gone to great links to disguise these harmful additives. For example, they use such names as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, vegetable protein, textured protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, soy protein extract, caseinate, yeast extract, and natural flavoring. We know experimentally that when these excitotoxin taste enhancers are added together they become much more toxic than is seen individually.10 In fact, excitotoxins in subtoxic concentrations can be fully toxic to specialized brain cells when used in combination. Frequently, I see processed foods on supermarket shelves, especially frozen or diet foods, that contain two, three or even four types of excitotoxins.
...There is also evidence that several nutrients can significantly reduce excitotoxicity. For example, combinations of coenzyme Q10 and niacinamide have been shown to protect against striatal excitotoxic lesions. Methylcobolamine, phosphotidylserine, picnogenol and acetyl-L-carnitine all protect against excitotoxicity as well.
Of particular concern is the toxic effects of these excitotoxic compounds on the developing brain. It is well recognized that the immature brain is four times more sensitive to the toxic effects of the excitatory amino acids as is the mature brain.This means that excitotoxic injury is of special concern from the fetal stage to adolescence. There is evidence that the placenta concentrates several of these toxic amino acids on the fetal side of the placenta. Consumption of aspartame and MSG containing products by pregnant women during this critical period of brain formation is of special concern and should be discouraged. Many of the effects, such as endocrine dysfunction and complex learning, are subtle and may not appear until the child is older. Other hypothalamic syndromes associated with early excitotoxic lesions include immune alterations and violence dyscontrol.
WIND: well worth a read, particularly for parents.