The taste that kills

What if someone told you that a chemical substance added to food can cause brain damage in your children, which later on in life can lead to them developing behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, obesity, and infertility problems? What if someone told you that it is proven that this chemical substance can seriously worsen neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS? And also, that this substance does not fulfill any nutritional function at all, yet still is added to our everyday modern food?

What would you do if someone told you this?
This pretty much sums up the beginning of Russell Blaylock’s book ”Excitotoxins – the taste that kills”, which most of this article is based on. Blaylock is a brain surgeon who started noticing patterns of brain damage in his patients, and therefore started digging in to what the causes might be. Blaylock has gone through countless of scientific research reports, and his book, ”Excitotoxins – the taste that kills”, has a total of 493 references to it. The three most common excitotoxins are glutamate, aspartate (the main component of aspartame), and L-cysteine. The use of all these chemical substances in the modern day food industry is extensive. Blaylock was warned by colleagues about writing and releasing the book, since they were scared that the big and powerful companies with industrial interests could make his life miserable. It is therefore of great importance that Blaylock’s book, ”Excitotoxins – the taste that kills”, is based on well-made research reports that support his claims, which also has resulted in that no-one so far has been able to question his conclusions.

How excitotoxins work
Glutamate and aspartate are amino acids naturally found in many proteins. When they first were discovered and used back in the days, they were therefore not thought of as hazardous to the human body. It had been discovered that if protein was broken down and concentrated free glutamate extracted from it, you could add it to food to get an enhancement of taste. If you concentrate aspartame, you get something that is more than 100 times sweeter than sugar. But it just so happens, that glutamate and aspartate are also used by the brain as two of about 50 different chemical signaling substances, to transmit impulses from nerve to nerve. It is a very effective system where extremely small amounts are required. If a glutamate-sensitive nerve is exposed to large amounts of glutamate, it becomes overstimulated – and works itself to death. It dies.

In normal cases, there are enzymes that take care of the excess glutamate, but if the concentration of glutamate becomes too great, the enzymes can not take care of the process since it becomes too much to handle. For example, if you are hungry and your blood sugar is too low, the function is reduced. If you lack magnesium or antioxidants, the damage that occurs will be more extensive. The effect of aspartate is similar. Aspartame also has methanol in it, which is used as a decomposition product – and it is carcinogenic.

The bloodbrain barrier
The blood-brain barrier’s main function is to prevent inappropriate substances from entering the brain. This boundary normally prevents glutamate, that has been ingested and transfered in to the blood, from entering the brain. But there are exceptions. In fetuses for example, the barrier is undeveloped – and it actually takes many years before it is fully formed. If the concentration of glutamate in the blood is too high for a longer period of time, some parts of glutamate will leak through. This happens if you ingest food with glutamate in it, in several meals in a row – for example, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Other causes of an impaired blood-brain barrier are also atherosclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, concussion, tumors, and not least micro-strokes (those that happen without you noticing). The opportunities for excitotoxins to enter the brain and cause damage are many.

Excitotoxins damage the brain
Some parts of the brain have no barrier, such as the hypothalamus. These parts are the ones most often damaged by excitotoxins. Even if the damage occurs in the fetus, as an infant, or in during the early childhood years, it can take a long time before any symptoms are noticed.

The hypothalamus is the body’s control and regulation system for many of the human body’s hormones. These hormones control different parts in the body, such as the circadian rhythm, metabolism, and fertility. Intelligence and behavior are also affected. If damage occurs in this area at an early stage of development, the function will be incorrectly programmed – forever. Early signs in children that regulation is out of balance can be, amongst other difficulties, social behavior issues, learning difficulties, overweight, lack concentration, and so on.

Problems with fertility, in both men and women, is also a problem that comes along later in life. Excitotoxins can also affect a number of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS. It is likely that these are not directly caused by  only excitotoxins, but rather contribute to the symptoms becoming worse and showing up earlier than they otherwise would. The symptoms are not noticeable until about 80 percent of the nerve cells for a certain function have died, so the damage may have processed for a longer period of time. Iron, mercury, and other heavy metals, make the excitotoxins even more toxic and over the years you may have accumulated a lot of them.

Since the body’s protection against excitotoxins is at its lowest point early in life as a child, and also when getting older and closer to the end of life, Russell Blaylock makes a warning statement to all pregnant women, parents to young children, and the elderly, that it is especially important for these groups to avoid glutamate, aspartame, and other excitotoxins.

It has all been found that one can get acute symptoms after ingesting a higher amount excitotoxins, symptoms that can show up as soon as after just a couple of minutes, or up two days later – in form of headache, fatigue, thirst, stomach pain, dizziness, diarrhea, shortness of breath, palpitations, confusion, and mood swings.

Tests have been made on animals that have ingested a lot of glutamate, and the results show abnormal behavior, lower intelligence, irreversible obesity, and infertility. For ethical reasons, scientifically controlled trials have not been conducted on humans.

How to avoid health damage
If you are not a child or an elderly, and consider yourself perfectly healthy, do not go hungry for longer periods of time, eat nutritious food, sleep well, and do not stress on regular basis – your body can cope with handling excitotoxins without having it to cause brain damage. On the other hand, if one of these conditions are not met, for example if you catch a cold or develop a fever, the excitotoxins are more likely to damage your brain cells.

However, antioxidants can reduce the risk. Antioxidants such as vitamin C (found in various fruit and berries) and vitamin E (found in for example fish, nuts, and egg yolk) are important to ingest when wanting to reduce the risk and stay healthy. Even long-chain omega-3 fat (found in fatty fish and naturally pastured meat) reduces the risk of damage, as do small amounts of selenium and zinc – larger amounts are toxic.

Most people today ingest too little magnesium, and magnesium deficiency makes excitotoxins much more dangerous to the human body and brain. Aluminum (found aluminium pans and cereals) further enhances the effect, as does phosphate (found in Coca-Cola). Magnesium can be ingested as supplements but is found naturally in nuts, rose hips, fish, meat and vegetables, among other things.

The impact of heavy metals
Heavy metals, mainly mercury, multiply the toxicity of excitotoxins in the body. It is enough to drink a hot drink for hazardous content to released from, say, dental amalgam tooth fillings. You also have to be careful to eat fish from lakes and for example the Baltic Sea, since they can contain high concentration of mercury. Iron also increases the toxicity of excitotoxins. Women who menstruate may need iron supplements, but most people, both men and women, have excess levels of iron. There is a special antioxidant that can also bind metals and thus neutralize them and make them less harmless, and that is alpha-lipoic acid. This antioxidant can be ingested as supplements but is also found naturally in spinach and broccoli.

Best is to try to avoid eating products that contain excitotoxins. Given the hazardous effects on the human body, they shouldn’t be allowed in food at all, but they are. They even exist in vaccines, though prohibited in, for example, Germany. The World Health Organization, WHO, has not stated their opinion on this, but relies on the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, in the United States and follow their lead. And since the FDA is mainly controlled by the food industry and Big Pharma, there has been no ban of the chemical substances added to modern food.

Watch out for light and diet food
There is only one way to get rid of excitotoxins in your food – do not buy products containing them. So every time you pick up an item at the grocery store which contains a table of contents, take a few seconds to read it through. Products with any of the following ingredients contain excitotoxins: Aspartame, Glutamic acid, Sodium glutamate (also called flavor enhancer), Potassium glutamate, Calcium diglutamate, Monoammonium glutamate, Magnesium diglutamate, hydrolyzed/cleaved protein, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, gelatin, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, seaweed extract, carrageenan and maltodextrin.

If an item has the text light or diet in it, see it as a warning signal to carefully check the contents. Keyhole branded goods are common in the Scandinavian countries and  always low in fat – and therefore easily become tasteless, because fat is the carrier of flavor. This is also why excitotoxins are often added as flavor enhancers, since it is a cheap way to get more flavor in to the products.

Trans fats are banned in countries like the United States and Denmark, but not in, for example, Sweden. New York consider it so harmful and toxic that a total ban against trans fats has been introduced. So if you read the words ”hardened fat” or ”vegetable fat” in the list of contents on a food item, and the contents are not liquid – they are talking about trans fats. It is often found in industrial margarine, frying oils, cookies, popcorn, biscuits, ice cream and chocolate.

Whilst reading the table of contents on the items in the grocery store there are several more ingredients you should be aware of, and avoid or reduce your intake of.

Omega-6 fat is inflammatory, and omega-3 fat is anti-inflammatory. A suitable omega-6/omega-3 ratio is 3/1. In today’s food, there is a much larger ratio, which increases the risk of arteriosclerosis, allergy, rheumatism, cancer, and so on. High omega-6 intake exacerbates the effect of excitotoxins. Omega-6 content is rarely declared, but cereal products, corn, soy and most cooking oils have very high values, as do margarine. Butter and coconut fat, on the other hand, are healthy.

Food with a lot of carbohydrates gives high insulin levels and causes countless health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, poor immune system, and cancer. Blood sugar fluctuations can also occur, and during the periods when the blood sugar is too low – the brain has reduced protection against excitotoxins. Therefore, you should ingest food with more than 5 energy percent carbohydrates sparingly. Sulfur dioxide (often found in dried fruit) destroys vitamin B1, which in deficiency together with excitotoxins can cause Alzheimer’s.