- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
A Book Review: Excitotoxins, the Taste that Kills.
Have you heard of Dr. Russell L. Blaylock? He is a retired neurosurgeon and author. He was an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi in 1994 when he had his book published. His book is titled Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills.
In the introduction to his book he asks, “What if someone were to tell you that a chemical added to food could cause brain damage in your children, and that this chemical could affect how your children’s nervous systems formed during development so that in later years they may have learning or emotional difficulties? How would you feel?....Suppose evidence was presented to you that the artificial sweetener in your diet soft drink may cause brain tumors to develop?....What if it could be demonstrated that all of these types of chemicals (called excitotoxins) could possibly aggravate or even precipitate many of the neurodegenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease?” He goes on to say that “you may be upset to learn that many of these brain lesions in your children are irreversible and can follow a single exposure of sufficient concentration….and the food industry disguises many of these excitotoxin additives so that they will not be recognized. In fact, many foods that are labeled “No MSG” not only contain MSG but also contain other excitotoxins of equal potency.”
Monosodium glutamate or MSG is the chemical in “sea tangle” or kombu that Japanese cooks have been using – apparently— for at least a millennium. When chemists isolated this ingredient and studied it for its taste enhancing abilities, it became a hot property. A related substance called hydrolyzed vegetable protein also contains MSG and also became part of a worldwide million-dollar industry after World War II when giants in the food industry -- such as Pillsbury, Oscar Mayer, Libby’s and Campbells – added millions of pounds of MSG to foods every year. A corporation called Ajinomoto Company today produces most of the taste-enhancing substances for the world’s people.
Neurotransmitters Play a Role
In the 1940’s and 1950’s neuroscientists assumed that the glutamate supplied the brain with energy and did no harm. Then in 1957, two ophthalmologists, Lucas and Newhouse, decided to test MSG on baby mice to study an eye disease called hereditary retinal dystrophy. To their amazement, they discovered that the MSG which had been fed to the infant mice caused the destruction of all the nerve cells in the layers of the animals’ retinas. Ten years later, Dr. John Olney, a neuroscientist with the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis repeated the experiment with infant mice and found that cells in the hypothalamus of the animals’ brains were destroyed – after a single dose of MSG.
Millions of babies all over the world were being poisoned with MSG because large amounts of MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein had been added to baby foods for years by that time. Dr. Olney took the information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and expected some kind of help to stop these dangerous compounds from being put in foods. The FDA did not take any action.
Dr. Olney testified before a Congressional committee. At that point, the manufacturers of baby foods agreed to remove the MSG from the products. Instead, they added a substance called hydrolyzed vegetable protein which contains three excitotoxins and has MSG added within those toxins.
The Human Brain
In Dr. Blaylock’s book, he gives a good description of the parts and functions of our brains. The frontal lobes, the parietal lobes, the occipital lobe and the temporal lobes all have their functions including short term memory, integration of information and checking for memories, functions such as tension, tact and tenacity of endeavor and association of internal mapping so that we can take our whereabouts by visual cues.
The white matter in our brain has millions of nerve fibers or axons coming from and to the gray matter. The gray matter is arranged into nuclei which are blended together. They function with other nuclei, not independently. Neurotransmitters in the brain allow the neurons to communicate. It's my understanding that the excitotoxins cause the neurotransmitters to fire rapidly -- all excited -- so excitedly that cells die. Every day that we are eating processed food, drinking diet sodas, eating breads with L-cysteine -- the list goes on and on -- we are causing harm to our brains. Eventually the brain's defenses can no longer put up a strong enough defense. Little by little we can suffer physiological damage especially to our neurological system. How much damage? The evidence seems to indicate the answer to this question depends on our individual patterns of unhealthy eating and drinking, our individual genetic make-up and our age.
There is strong evidence that the excitotoxins play a key role in many degenerative brain diseases by causing a slow destruction of brain cells. This is carried out, Dr. Blaylock explains, due to the fact that neurons that “use glutamate for a transmitter are destroyed by these high concentrations of glutamate while other neurons that use other transmitters are spared.”
In 1994 when Dr. Blaylock's book was published there was no comprehensive evidence that the excitotoxins completely caused the degenerative brain diseases, but the evidence was strong that, at the least, they played a key role due to excitotoxin build-up in the brain. Research has shown that the endocrine system in our bodies are especially at the mercy of these poisons in our systems. The hormone that controls growth is critical in many ways and can be greatly disturbed by our partaking of excitotoxins.The thyroid gland, the adrenal glands and the gonads can become affected in their production and activities.
Hidden Sources of MSG
There are newer books on the market to read now on this subject if you are already aware of the basic information. However, Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills is an excellent place to start your journey of discovery if you have not read anything yet regarding the damage caused to our brains by Nutrasweet, asparatame, MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. The anatomical diagrams in the book are easy to understand yet upsetting because they can cause a light bulb to go on. We have been played. Our health, individually and collectively, does not matter at all to the FDA.
When and if you buy or borrow this book from the library, do look at the list at the back under the heading Appendix I: Hidden Sources of MSG. It explains on those pages that the glutamate manufacturers and the processed food industries are always trying to hide the facts from us. Aspartate and L-cysteine, for example, are often added to foods and for years did not even require labeling. Check the ingredients listed on the label of the bread you usually purchase. If it says L-Cysteine in the ingredients, you are wise to choose a different bread. L-cysteine is a poison to the brain.
Here is a list of additives as outlined in Dr. Blaylock’s book which always contain MSG and can be listed simply as the following names so that most people do not suspect the harm of digesting them.
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Plant Protein Extract
Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Additives that frequently contain MSG are listed as Malt extract, malt flavoring, bouillon, broth, stock, flavoring, natural flavoring, Natural Beef or chicken flavoring, seasoning, spices, Carrageenan (in icecream) enzymes, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate.
How many times have you looked at the ingredients on a package before buying it, checking to make sure it was safe for yourself, your children or your grandchildren and found it to say in the list – spices? Or maybe –natural flavoring? Good sounding stuff, so it goes into the shopping cart.
Protect your Brain Cells. Avoid MSG.
Since 1994, this is no longer just a million dollar industry. This is a billion dollar industry and is worldwide.
There is a mechanical system in the brain which scientists have named the blood-brain barrier. It is used to keep harmful compounds from entering the brain. It is believed to exist in the walls of the capillaries of the brain. When it becomes compromised, disease sets into the neurological system in the body. It is my hope that you, the reader, will study this subject of which I have only barely skimmed the surface. It is also my hope that while you are doing so -- and if you are, for instance, a Diet Coke drinker with no urge to quit the habit right now -- that you will make sure you are taking an Omega 3 in some form every day. In today's fast-food world the average person gets 20 times the amount of Omega 6 in relation to Omega 3. Our body needs it in a 1 to 1 ratio. When you buy Omega 3, make sure it says Pharmaceutical Grade on the bottle of capsules or it is not of any use – according to research done recently. It doesn’t matter which brand it is, but it needs to say Pharmaceutical Grade on the bottle. This will give some protection (Dr. Blaylock says) for the brain barrier system. It is not the solution to the vast problem, but as human beings we often take awhile to absorb new data and to make course corrections. I know I do.
As I mentioned, in this hub I have only skimmed the surface of this topic. I hope you will research this subject by reading the book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, written by Dr. Blaylock -- or any other number of excellent books on this subject.
(Source of information in this hub: Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills. Author: Russell L. Blaylock, M.D. Published 1994 by Health Press, Sante Fe, New Mexico.)
Monosodium Glutamate from ocean to our plates via big bags
Watch Maria Shriver's Alzheimer's Project HBO video here
- HBO: Documentaries: The Alzheimer\'s Project: Watch the Films: Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am? With M
Watch 'Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am? With Maria Shriver', part of the pioneering HBO Documentary Films series, The Alzheimer's Project.
© 2010 Pamela Kinnaird W