Excitotoxins #1: How to Turn Your Brain to Jelly

May 24, 2010

Excitotoxins:  How to Turn Your Brain to Jelly 

 Reference  The Taste That Kills, Blaylock Competency: Brain Health 

 What's an excito-toxin?  It’s a chemical that turns on your brain in a fashion that causes damage by the stimulation that it causes.  I want to learn how that works.  This is a story worthy of a spy novel.  So, I'm going to start at the beginning.  The Pacific Theatre of World War II found island-hopping Marines taking over islands from the Japanese and immediately going for the Japanese K rations.  They tasted much better than the boring old American food.  The Quartermaster of the army was a bit miffed, wondering what made the Japanese food taste so much better.  After the war was over inquiry into Japanese food methods showed it to be the forerunner to MSG.  At the time the Japanese were using seaweed extract as a flavor enhancer, but the blossoming of modern chemistry soon figured out the responsible chemical.  

Monosodium glutamate was the key.  The Quartermaster General of the US Army asked American food manufacturers to beef up their flavor of K rations or the army wouldn't buy from them.  At that point MSG had been added to food as a seaweed extract, so it was in relatively small doses.  In the years following World War II, a variety of new techniques were used to learn how to make it in greater purity.  It wasn't until the 1960s that the Ajinomoto Company of Japan figured out how to make it in a more concentrated form by bacterial fermentation.  But the secret was out.  It wasn’t just the army that wanted flavor enhancement.  Every food manufacturer who wanted to sell more flavorful food wanted in.  And America was the waiting laboratory to try it out.

 It wasn't long before our food manufacturers found that folks liked MSG.  It made food taste wonderful.  And since glutamate was just an amino acid it could be found in other sources of protein.  A little imagination with waste vegetable products and manufacturers found that they could take vegetable sources of protein, break up the protein chains into pieces and a lot of free glutamate would be released.  The chemical process of breaking it up was called "hydrolyzing" so "hydrolyzed vegetable protein" was born.  That's just another name for MSG and it also is a nifty taste enhancer.  

Is that cool or what?  You could take all the carrot peels from shaping nice mini carrots and boil it up and sell it as MSG and no one would know it by the name of MSG. The problem.....was that it didn't take long to find the problem.  

MSG seemed to do a bunch of dangerous things in lab animals.  In rats, it was found to damage sensitive nerve cells in the back of the eye.  Rats treated with it also became very obese.  Bit by bit the picture was put together that MSG damaged parts of the brain that were very sensitive to chemical intrusion.   A Dr. John Olney was studying the retina of rats exposed to MSG and found that those nerve cells died.  But the rats also got obese.  And that correlated with damage to parts of the most sensitive part of the brain called the hypothalamus. And here is the rub.  There were a lot of companies selling a lot of MSG, and a lot of food companies finding that we all really liked MSG added to their food.  So, a few dead nerve cells in the back of rat eyes shouldn't be all that big a deal. 

 WWW.  What will work for me?  It's critical that you know what MSG will do to you.  We all need a primer on MSG.  This story is like a great CSI crime story.  Only you are the victim.  Tune in next week and we will uncover the next clue in the story.  But start this week by looking at food products you buy.  See if you can find it.

 Column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)