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Health Dangers of Excitotoxins
What is an excitotoxin? This descriptive term is actually composed of the words excite and toxin. A 'toxin' is a poison. An excitotoxin is a poison that excites. Excitotoxin describes a class of toxic chemicals that literally 'excites' any brain cell it encounters until it dies.
An excitotoxin causes a brain cell to fire its impulses rapidly when contact is made. The cells continue firing until they become exhausted, and eventually die. This process can happen in an hour. You can easily see the potential health dangers of excitotoxins.
Pioneer brain researcher Dr. John Olney first coined the term 'excitotoxin.' He discovered in the 1960s that monosodium glutamate (MSG), a potent excitotoxin, caused his laboratory rats to become obese. The artificial sweetener aspartame, more popularly recognized by its trade names Nutrasweet and Equal, is an excitotoxin. Monosodium glutamate is another.
The Japanese had been using an edible kelp known as kombu for thousands of years. It was used as a flavor enhancer. Monosodium glutamate occurs naturally in seaweed, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese professor at Tokyo University first isolated monosodium glutamate (MSG) from kombu in 1908. He later became a partner in what is now a multi-billion dollar company which supplies more than one third of the world's MSG. About 1.5 million tons of MSG is sold annually!
During World War II, the Japanese added MSG to their soldiers' food supply. It later came to the attention of American soldiers who had eaten Japanese food rations. MSG was first introduced to the American public at a Chicago symposium in 1948. This symposium was led by the Chief Quartermaster of the armed forces.
10 million pounds of MSG was manufactured in 1933. During the years 1948 through 1956 large quantities of MSG was added to food. In the 1950s MSG was included in baby food. Remember Accent? It became a leading American brand of flavor enhancers in the 1960s. Monosodium glutamate was its basic ingredient.
The first reported sign of an adverse reaction to MSG occurred in 1968. Robert Ho Man Kwok described his symptoms after having eaten Chinese food. "[It] usually begins 15 to 20 minutes after I have eaten the first dish, and lasts for about two hours. The most prominent symptoms are numbness at the back of the neck, gradually radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness, and palpitations." This was the first indication of the health dangers of excitotoxins.
A survey conducted in 1976 found that 25 percent of the public had adverse reactions after having eaten at a Chinese restaurant. This became known as the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. Part of the funding for that study came from the National Eye Institute. An earlier study found that MSG caused retinal damage in newborn mice, rats, and chicks. This study provided further proof of the health dangers of excitotoxins.
Dr. Kwok contacted the New England Journal of Medicine in a letter about his Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. In 1969, Dr. John Olney, a pioneer in brain research, fed MSG to laboratory rats. The rats suffered brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders. Infant laboratory rats who were given free glutamic acid suffered immediate brain injury, and different neuroendocrine disorders at a later stage in life.
When these distressing results became public knowledge, parents were outraged. Baby formula contained MSG. By the late 1970s baby food manufacturers removed MSG from baby formula due to a public outcry. These manufacturers were forced to recognize the health dangers of excitotoxins.
The Federal Drug Administration has given MSG a classification of GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status since 1959. Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, the FDA has no restrictions on MSG. It is unfortunate that the FDA refuses to acknowledge the may studies pointing to the health dangers of excitotoxins.
Lies Used to Justify Continued MSG Use
Monosodium glutamate is a multi-billion dollar world-wide industry. If it were to be discredited, those billions of dollars would be jeopardized. Lies and half-truths are used in order to prevent the public from becoming aware of just how dangerous this flavor enhancer really is.
The many health dangers of excitotoxins are knowingly being ignored because of the enormous profits being made supplying the world with MSG:
Truth- human beings are 5 times more sensitive than the mouse. In other words, the most sensitive living creature is the mouse. Humans are 20 times more sensitive than the rhesus monkey. A child is 4 times as sensitive as an adult!
Truth- there are certain areas of the brain which are not protected by this barrier. Also, certain diseases and injuries can open the blood/brain barrier. Examples are high blood pressure (hypertension), a brain injury, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, low-blood sugar (hypoglycemia), head x-rays, infections in the head area, etc.
Truth- large quantities of carbohydrates are needed to reduce MSG's toxicity. For instance, it takes approximately 17 packets of sugar to block MSG's toxicity!
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
The use of MSG as a flavor enhancer should not be underestimated. It makes whatever food product it is in taste incredibly delicious. Manufacturers know that taste is what drives food sales. After all, if a product doesn't taste good, it will not sell. That's why it is put in everything from soups, sauces and gravies to fast foods, vegetarian foods, and restaurant foods.
We as consumers are guided by our taste buds when it comes to food. If it tastes good we complement the chef, and recommend it to our friends. We cannot associate something which tastes this good with the health dangers of excitotoxins. This highlights the deceptiveness of MSG. It is devastatingly harmful in the long term.
Since humans are much more sensitive to the effects of MSG, what laboratory animals experience from being fed it will potentially be magnified in humans--especially toddlers. Obesity can be attributed to MSG. This is one of the high profile health dangers of excitotoxins.
Remember, Dr. John Olney found that MSG caused obesity in laboratory rats. This has been repeated in numerous studies world-wide. Obesity as a result of MSG is very difficult to lose. Dr. Russell Blaylock has written about MSG. He says, "The other curious thing about exposing animals to MSG early in life is that they prefer sweet foods, foods with sugar in it, carbohydrate foods, and they stay away from the foods that are healthier."
What makes the obesity that MSG produces especially dangerous is the type of fat it creates. MSG produces visceral or abdominal fat. This fat lies deep inside the abdominal region and is responsible for inflammation.
"The other curious thing about exposing animals to MSG early in life is that they prefer sweet foods, foods with sugar in it, carbohydrate foods, and they stay away from the foods that are healthier," Dr. Blaylock explained.
Excitotoxins create free radicals--substances which if left unchecked can lead to devastating illnesses from Alzheimer's disease to cancer. The generation of free radicals is another sinister aspect of the health dangers of excitotoxins.
Monosodium glutamate can alter the way the brain is formed in toddlers. They are 4 times as sensitive to MSG than adults who themselves are 5 times more sensitive than the laboratory mouse. Dr. Blaylock says, "So the brain is still forming its connections, particularly the most important social part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, continues up to age 25, 26, even 27." MSG is also associated with rage, aggressiveness, high triglyceride levels, and high cholesterol.
The hypothalamus section of the brain is affected by MSG. This part of the brain controls hunger, satiety (sense of fullness), sleep-wake cycles, and the endocrine glands. MSG can worsen autism, ADD (attention deficit disorder), hyperactivity, Alzheimer's disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), multiple sclerosis, stroke and Parkinson's disease. The health dangers of excitotoxins, and their seriousness, is not well known by the public.
Over 40 percent of the American population experiences symptoms after having eaten MSG. Some of these symptoms are throat swelling, diarrhea, vomiting, irregular heartbeats, and migraine headaches. These health dangers of excitotoxins are immediately apparent in this group.
According to Dr. Blaylock, MSG enters the bloodstream and remains there. Further ingestion of MSG raises the blood levels. Explains Dr. Blaylock, "in other words, with each meal, it rises, it stays elevated -- you eat another meal, then it rises even further, -- and you eat another meal and it rises even further. It stays elevated through a good portion of the night."
MSG demonstrates the health dangers of excitotoxins in another way. It is a cancer fertilizer. In other words, cancer thrives in the presence of MSG just as it does in sugar.
Many of the body's organs have glutamate receptors. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay, amplify, and modulate electrical impulses between a neuron and another cell. The heart, lungs, pancreas, ovaries, spleen, GI (gastrointestinal) tract, immune system, arteries, and the brain all have glutamate receptors.
When MSG attacks the heart, it can cause arrhythmia, an uncontrolled beating of the heart. It can cause juvenile asthma when it hits the lungs. If MSG attacks the pancreas, it can lead to diabetes. It can also lead to various cancers of the brain, colon, breast, and more. The health dangers of excitotoxins are understated--if addressed at all.