by Nashville personal trainer Dan DeFigio
What if I told you that there was a chemical added to many foods that could cause brain damage in you and your children?
If I showed you evidence that something many people drink every day could be precipitating some of the degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, would you be upset?
Would it surprise you to learn that the FDA has approved several food additives to sweeten food
which have been proven to increase the risk of brain tumors and thyroid problems?
You can either believe the FDA position stand that these chemicals are "generally regarded as safe in moderation",
or you can investigate the science and research yourself. I suggest you do the latter. Below is what I have found.
How chemical sweeteners work
Artificial sweeteners work by causing neuroexcitation in a part of the brain that causes us to perceive a sweet taste.
The problem is, these chemical sweeteners over-stimulate the neurons, to the point where they literally self-destruct.
MSG and NutraSweet are especially dangerous for babies (both in and out of the womb), because infants' brains are not yet protected by the blood-brain barrier.
My own theory explaining some of the enormous rise in the incidence of autism in American children is that it is due to the mothers' use of these chemicals while pregnant, and the prevalence of these chemicals in processed
food for babies and toddlers. I am not making this up -- I will encourage you to investigate the research in such journals as
The Journal of Child Neurology, Biomed Biochim Acta, International Journal of Neuroscience, and Journal of Neurochemistry.
Let's look at some of the specific sweeteners and their associated dangers:
MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Most folks are aware that this one is bad news. Here's why:
Brain damage. Excessive glutamate in the brain kills glutamate receptors and neurons connected to it.
This has huge implications for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Weight gain. MSG increases the amount on insulin produced by the pancreas. One of the standard
laboratory practices to create obese mice and rats is to inject them with MSG. They are even referred
to as "monosodium-glutamate-obese rats" in the research reports! I am not joking -- go to the research archives at www.pubmed.com and search for "MSG obese".
Retinal cell damage.
Hypothalmus damage. The hypothalmus controls other endocrine glands like thyroid, adrenals, etc.
Increases appetite. The pro-MSG lobbying web site (www.msgfacts.com) used to boast that one of the
benefits of MSG use for food manufacturers was that it caused people to eat more of their products!
Other names for MSG
Because MSG gets so much bad publicity, food manufacturers will hide MSG behind these names:
Why is this legal? Somebody help me out here!
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Natural flavoring
- Plant protein extract
- Sodium casienate
- Yeast extract
- Textured (vegetable) protein
- Hydrolyzed oat flour
- Malt flavoring
- Natural beef (or chicken) flavoring
Brain damage. Like MSG, aspartame kills glutamate receptors and neurons connected to it.
This has huge implications for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Increased appetite. NutraSweet supresses production of serotonin, which is one
of the neurotransmitters that makes you feel full and satisfied. When your serotonin levels
are not allowed to rise as they normally do when you eat, you crave more and more food.
Methanol (wood alcohol). Aspartame is 10% methanol, which according to the European Journal
of Clinical Nutrition, "can give rise to formaldehyde, diketopiperazine (a carcinogen,) and a number
of other highly toxic derivatives."
[Homer Simpson voice] "Mmmm....Highly toxic derivatives...."
Brain tumors. In experiments to test the safety of aspartame before its FDA approval in 1981,
animals fed NutraSweet developed 25 times as many brain tumors as the control animals.
The shameful history of Nutrasweet's approval by the FDA:
When the FDA was presented with aspartame research, they assigned a public board of inquiry the task of deciding if it should be allowed for human consumption. In 1980, the doctors on that board unanimously ruled that aspartame should not go on the market. An internal FDA panel concluded the same thing in 1980.
The FDA Chairman (Dr. Gere Goyan) was forced to step down the day Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. His replacement? Dr. Arthur Hill Hayes, hand-picked by Donald Rumsfeld for this position. In 1981, Rumsfeld was CEO of the company that owned the patent on aspartame (the G.D. Searle company).
But even with a friendly new FDA Chairman in place, the agency still rejected aspartame for approval by a 3-2 margin. What reprehensible action did Chairman Hayes do next? He added a sixth member to the approval board, one who had promised to vote in favor of aspartame. Then, with a 3-3 tie on the issue, Chairman Hayes himself broke the deadlock with his own vote of approval for aspartame.
Good news -- apparently sucralose doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier, so it shouldn't
cause brain damage.
Bad news -- Splenda is a chlorocarbon, which is a known carcinogen (and is used as a pesticide too).
The chlorocarbons have long been known for causing organ, genetic, and reproductive damage.
Immune system suppression. The testing of sucralose reveals that it can cause up to 40 percent
shrinkage of the thymus -- a gland that is vital to our immune system.
More sucralose trouble -- In animal studies, Splenda reduces the amount of good bacteria in the intestines
by 50%, acidifies the intestines, and contributes to increases in body weight. It also affects the P-glycoprotein
in the body in such a way that certain medications (chemotherapy, AIDS treatment, and drugs for heart conditions)
could be rejected by shunting them back into the intestines rather than being absorbed by the body as intended.
Splenda was approved by the FDA as a sweetener in 1998. The approval was based on more than 110 animal and human safety studies. However, what they don't specify was that out of these 110 studies, only two were human studies, consisting of a combined total of 36 people, of which only 23 people actually ingested sucralose. Additionally, the longest of these two human trials lasted only four days and looked at sucralose in relation to tooth decay, not human toxicity. Sheesh!
What Should We Do?
Don't eat products with these chemicals (or their hidden pseudonymns) on the label.
Without getting into too much biochemistry, suffice to say that supplemental vitamin E,
vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and acetyl l-carnitine have powerful neuroprotective
(brain-protecting) properties. Preliminary research on alpha-lipoic acid may look good too.
If you must eat or drink something with MSG or Nutrasweet, make sure there are some
carbohydrates in your system. The damage that these chemicals cause to your brain is
much worse when your glucose levels are low. One of the worst things you can do to your
brain is drink a diet soda on an empty stomach!
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