Posted by: TTCLauren | July 22, 2012

EXCITOTOXINS…The Taste that Kills…

As recently reported in Natural News, Aspartame, (an artificial sweetener commercially known as Nutrasweet, Spoonful and Equal) has infiltrated the market. From soda and diet drinks to desserts and chewing gum, it offers a low-fat, low-calorie and no-sugar option enticing to diabetics and dieters.

However, products containing aspartame have been shown to actually cause weight gain, and the components that make up aspartame have also been found to be toxic in themselves.  So, why  is it still considered safe for human consumption?

Dr. Russell Blaylock, a respected neurosurgeon and author of an enlightening book called “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills,” speaks about excitotoxins and shares his thoughts on why he believes aspartame is dangerous.

According to Dr. Blaylock, excitotoxins are substances that excite brain cells or neurons to the point of exhaustion and death. Normally, these substances act as transmitters, a substance allowing brain cells to relate with one another. However, these compounds are so harmful that the body keeps them in low concentrations. Anything that alters or increases these substances can cause neuro-degeneration, as well as degeneration of the spinal cord and the brain. Excitotoxins are normally found in plant substances, and, where most people are concerned, in food additives.

Glutamate is one of the more commonly known excitotoxins. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamate. This amino acid is a normal neurotransmitter in the brain. In fact, it is the most commonly used neurotransmitter by the brain.   

So, you ask, “how could a substance that is used normally by the brain cause harm?”  Because, glutamate, as a neurotransmitter, is used by the brain only in very, very small concentrations. When the concentration of this transmitter rises above this level the neurons begin to fire abnormally. At higher concentrations, the cells undergo cell death. 

Excitotoxins are found 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.  Liquid forms of excitotoxins, such as those put into 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.

The brain has elaborate mechanisms to prevent accumulation of MSG in the brain. First is the blood-brain barrier,  a system that impedes glutamate entry into the area of the brain cells. But, this system was intended to protect the brain against occasional elevation of glutamate of a moderate degree. It was NOT designed to eliminate very high concentrations of glutamate and aspartate consumed daily, or several times a day, as we see today. Several experiments have demonstrated that under such conditions, glutamate can by-pass this barrier system and enter the brain in toxic concentrations. In fact, there is some evidence that it may actually be concentrated within the brain with prolonged exposures.

There are also several conditions under which the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is weak,  instances under which excitotoxin food additives can enter and damage the brain.  For example, before birth, the BBB is incompetent and will allow glutamate to enter the brain. It may be that for a considerable period after birth the barrier may also incompletely developed as well. Hypertension, diabetes, head trauma, brain tumors, strokes, certain drugs, Alzheimer’s disease, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, severe hypoglycemia, heat stroke,  radiation, multiple sclerosis, and certain infections can all cause the barrier to fail.   Plus, as we age, the barrier system becomes more porous, allowing excitotoxins in the blood to enter the brain. 

Finally, recent experiments have shown that glutamate and aspartate (as in aspartame) can actually OPEN the brain barrier itself.  

As Dr. Blaylock reports,  “Since 1948 the amount of MSG added to foods has doubled every decade. By 1972, 262,000 metric tons were being added to foods. Over 800 million pounds of aspartame have been consumed in various products since it was first approved. Ironically, these food additives have nothing to do with preserving food or protecting its integrity. They are all used to alter the taste of food. MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and natural flavoring are used to enhance the taste of food so that it tastes better.

A growing number of scientists and medical researchers over the past decade have accumulated mounds of evidence to support their belief that excitotoxins play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders, including migraines, seizures, infections, certain endocrine disorders, specific types of obesity, and especially neurodegenerative diseases which include: ALS, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Despite the research and evidence however, the FDA does not recognize the immediate and long term health risks caused by excitotoxins being added to food, such as MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and aspartame (which is found in NutraSweet and Equal – the blue ‘fake sugar’ packets).   One of the components of NutraSweet or aspartame is aspartic acid, a powerful excitotoxin similar to glutamate. Moreover, phenylalanine, one of its components,  has been known to cause seizures.

Dr. Blaylock goes on to add that what makes aspartame so dangerous is that it contains three neurotoxins: methanol, phenylalanine and aspartic acid.

  • Methanol is a powerful neurotoxin whose exposure is carefully allowed by the EPA in miniscule levels in food. Nutrasweet, however, provides levels that are SEVEN TIMES the amount the EPA will allow anyone to use. It’s been known to produce blindness and cellular destruction in the brain and spinal cord, particularly the optic nerves.
  • Aspartic acid is an excitotoxin that causes cell death in the brain and significantly affects neural developments in infants, resulting in behavioral changes and even hyperactivity in children.
  • Phenylalanine, like aspartic acid, can also alter brain development during fetal formation and create a lowering of the seizure threshold.

Phenylalanine and aspartic acid are both well-recognized neurotoxins and according to Dr. Blaylock, three neurotoxins in one mix are just unbelievable!

Aspartame is found in over 6,000 products and consumed by 250 million people world wide.  More reports of aspartame reactions have been reported to the FDA than all other food additives put together.    Eighty percent of complaints to the FDA about food additives were aspartame related.   After more than 8,000 complaints on the side effect of NutraSweet, the FDA released a list of 92 side effects associated with aspartame consumption.

There is extensive research on the long term side effects of aspertame: 

  • Destruction of kidney function – In a study conducted by scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, it was discovered that subjects who drank more than two artificially sweetened beverages daily increased their risk of rapid kidney decline. 
  • Headaches/migraines – In a study published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, it was discovered that ingestion of aspartame by those who suffer migraines caused a significant increase in headache frequency for some subjects. 
  • Increase of hunger and body weight – In an article published in the UT Health Science Center, it was revealed that diet soft drink consumption seemed much more related to the chances of becoming more overweight or obese. 
  • Increase of the risk of preterm delivery – In a study funded by the Center for Fetal Programming, Division of Epidemiology, a connection was discovered between the intake of artificially carbonated drinks and increased risk of preterm delivery. 
  • Seizures and Convulsions – As early as 1987, a study was already conducted by Timothy Maher and Richard J. Wurtman who, through their work, discovered that aspartame potentially induces seizures. 
  • Cancer – In a remarkably recent study conducted by the Ramazzini Institute, it was discovered that in rodents, aspartame was a carcinogenic agent in multiple sites with autopsies that showed a significant risk to lung and liver cancer.

However, even in light of all these studies, the FDA has continued  to declare that aspartame is safe for human consumption and daily use. 

Perhaps it’s about time we stop relying on the government to protect us, and come to our own conclusions about whether or not we wish to be guinea pigs, or if we wish to become part of the alarming health statistics reported in future medical research studies.

Just a thought…

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