Monthly Archives: June 2010

Neuroexcitotoxicity 6: Deceptive behavior, science and the FDA

Neuroexcitotoxicity 6:  Deceptive behavior, science and the FDA

Topic: Brain Health

Reference:  The Taste that Kills  by Russell Blaylock

MSG has been studied by a variety of scientists and found to have neurotoxic effects in human children, laboratory science and animal models.  However,  we have other studies funded and paid for by the MSG advocacy organizations that argue those findings.  We see this back and forth argument through much of American toxicological science.   The interested companies publish their own studies, without publically revealing their data sources or methods, and accumulate large numbers of such studies to play the game of “the vast majority of studies”.  Even reporting on this type of behavior sounds slightly conspiracy theory prone, so I’m reluctant to be too eager to jump on this bandwagon, but I want to share with you one example MSG study that has been well documented to have been manipulated, and the manipulation ignored by the FDA.

In 1971 a Dr WA Reynolds reported that baby monkeys fed large doses of MSG showed no side effects of the MSG.  This was published in the journal Science and remains one of the standard studies the FDA refers to in citing the safety of MSG.  However, Dr. Russell Blaylock chased the author down and heard her admit in a public forum that the monkeys were fed huge doses, and all promptly vomited.  Vomiting was not mentioned in the final paper but was conceded in a national forum by the author later.  Vomiting is known to effectively remove the MSG and makes the study invalid.  Furthermore, the monkeys had been anesthetized with phencyclidine (Angel Dust) which is known to completely block the neurotoxic effects of MSG.  The use of phencyclidine was also not mentioned in the paper.  Finally, the paper submitted pathology sections of the hypothalamus not being affected, but what they showed were parts of the monkey hypothalamus’ that are never affected by MSG.   They didn’t show the sensitive parts where MSG has been proved to wreak damage.  Three reasons to call this paper into question-and all ignored by the FDA.  That’s the problem.

What this reveals is a pattern, a pattern we have seen throughout the American political system.  Large interests with large amounts of funding can influence public policy.  While money is not seen to directly change hands, the lobbyists who speak to lawmakers are effective at getting industry related “experts” on panels who then use their position to leverage the outcomes of reports, regulations and other public directives.  It is only when the public reacts with potent and focused attention that lawmakers find it too difficult to take unpopular public positions.  MSG will likely not rise to the level of national importance like the war in Afghanistan or national banking reform, so it remains below the radar.  The real loser is the American public.   Our FDA, instead of being our protector, is actually functioning as a public screen for companies with no moral imperative but to increase their personal profits.  We have seen this in the tobacco wars over the last 30 years, the hormone replacement studies, and in about 15 other drugs that have come to the market place and been found to be troublesome.  Numerous books by major leaders, including the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine have decried the corruption caused by company funded research and its reliably bogus findings.

WWW: What Will Work for Me.  The FDA considers glutamate as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) which means it does not need to be regulated, controlled or measured.  I believe they are wrong.   But our FDA is not empowered or capable of reviewing the science in an objective fashion.  Next week we will talk about aspartame and the same issue.  Is it really safe?

Neuroexcitotoxicity #5: Brain Diseases

Neuroexcitotoxicity #5:  Brain Diseases

Competency Brain Health

Reference Russell Blaylock and the Taste that Kills, CDC Tables on Disease Incidence

What is it with glutamate and brain diseases?  Well, we are stepping off the cliff of solid science into conjecture and possibility, but follow the thread of logic here with me and see if it makes sense to you.  First of all, you have to look at the epidemiology of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and ALS.  Those disease have been increasing in America at a much higher rate than at which we are getting older.  Did you know that in age and income matched groups in India, there is an 80% lower rate of Alzheimer’s?  80%!  It’s not an inevitable disease of aging.  You can avoid it.  It’s something to do with our environment. CDC data shows Alzheimer’s to have increased from 5 to 105 per 1,000,000 lives in the last 30 years.  Ouch!  What’s going on? CDC data show Parkinson’s has gone from 20 per 100.000 population in 1979 to 61 per 1,000,000 in 1998.  That’s a three-fold increase.  Alarmed!  You should be!

Here is the best logic we know in summary that Dr. Blaylock presents in his book.  We do have evidence that folks with Alzheimer’s have brains that consume more glucose.  The normal brain already soaks up 25% of your glucose.  An Alzheimer’s brain soaks up more.  We also know the blood brain barrier breaks down as we age.  We also know that MSG is kept out by the blood brain barrier.  We know that in a petri dish, brain cells from the parts of our brain that show Alzheimer’s effects get the same tangles of proteins Alzheimer’s patients show. The conjecture that would match the epidemiology would be as follows.  A person with a vulnerable brain because of a genetically higher energy need becomes slightly low in blood sugar, their blood brain barrier breaks down a little, a little more glutamate gets in, the brain cells get a bit more stressed and turn on the NMDA receptors.  Calcium floods in and the cell dies.  Low level, long term MSG will be impossible to finger, but the shoe fits.  It’s a food we’ve never had before and its use matches this disease.

Parkinson’s is a bit different, but not much.  Again, an energy-in-the-brain issue.  We know that you have to have 90% of the cells in your substantia nigra to be dead before you have Parkinson’s symptoms.  Many Americans have a substantial proportion of cells damaged in their substantia nigra when they die, without any symptoms of Parkinson’s – so damage is happening to the whole population.  Again, just vulnerable folks show the disease, but more would if they lived longer.  And again, the cells being affected are glutamate firing cells.

These are diseases of our modern era, and possibly completely avoidable.  But I can’t wait for the pure science to be certain.  Life style changes over many years are the key to prevention, if there is to be one.

WWW: What will work for me.  This is personal.  I have had family members with Parkinson’s and ALS.  I am avoiding glutamate and all its cousins heretoforward. I’m reading can labels and not drinking diet soda.  For a sweetener, just Stevia.  I haven’t got twenty years to wait for pure data.  This is something I can do for me, today.

Excitotoxins #4 How MSG Kills Brain Cells

Excitotoxins #4 How MSG Kills Brain Cells

Source:  Excitotoxins by Russell Blaylock MD

Competency: Brain Health

This sounds really gruesome.  Sorry.  It’s what we need to know to understand this mystery.  This might be one of the keys to unlocking the story of why we are having so many neurological diseases in America today.  My immediate family has had one case of Alzheimer’s, one case of Parkinson’s, one case of ALS.  Many of you share this tragedy too.

Here are the nuts and bolts of it.  Glutamate is one of our most abundant brain neurotransmitters.  It passes on an impulse from one cell to another.   To function properly, glutamate has to be soaked back up again or else the next neuron keeps firing.  Glutamate, and it’s analogs aspartate and cysteine, are excitatory transmitters.  They turn cells on.  When they get turned on too high because of too much glutamate surrounding them they fire and fire and fire, and then die.  But not only do they die, but the cells attached to them die too.  To control that deadly chain reaction, our brain cells are surrounded by nurse cells (glial cells) that soak up extra glutamate and get it out of the synapse space with a pumping mechanisms.  Just like the sump pump in your house, it pumps out the extra glutamate.  Your sump will only work if the electricity is on.  What happens if the electricity goes off?  What happens if your brain becomes low on energy and can’t “pump”.  Try low blood sugar, hypoglycemia.  Disaster!

Within about 30 minutes of being exposed to too much mono sodium glutamate, a neuron begins to swell up and die.  This occurs if you expose a nerve cell to a very high dose in a petri dish, or in an animal with the MSG injected into their abdomen.  But what about a lower dose?  Well, the same thing will happen, it just takes a little longer.  For the first two hours, the cell looks normal.  Then, at hour 3-6 it starts to swell and just takes a little longer to die.  It turns out these are two different mechanisms.  the first one is based on too much sodium getting into the cell.  The delayed reaction was based on too much calcium.  Two completely different ways for the cell to die.  No wonder these nerve cells get damaged by glutamate.  Our brains, in becoming the incredibly sophisticated computers that they are, are delicately balanced between the means to run the computer, and toxicity from too much glutamate.  It’s the calcium channel that’s the most important.  It’s that low dose for a long time that jams the calcium channel open and lets calcium just flood into the nerve cell.  The nerve cell can’t handle it.  It just slowly wears the cells out, and eventually we can’t replace those dying cells.

The implications of this are big.  A low level of glutamate or aspartate will jam open your calcium channels in your brain cells and let calcium flow in.  Your brain cell tries to cope and fights back.  You pump calcium out.  Back and forth, back and forth.  They you get a slight other injury to your brain.  You get a viral infection and a fever.  Your blood brain barrier weakens.  You eat a little less.  Your blood sugar falls.  You don’t have as much energy to pump out the extra glutamate.  You go to the store and get some comfort food to feel better while you are sick.  How about some nice chicken noodle soup.  You don’t look at the ingredients on the can label…….  You get a headache and feel awful.  It must be the virus.  You call into work and say you can’t come in.  Your thinking doesn’t feel right.    Bunches of cells in your swollen hypothalamus couldn’t agree more.  They are dying of too much glutamate and calcium.  They don’t feel right either.  You didn’t read the label on the can.

As cells die in your brain, you release a cascade of events in which you set up inflammation to clean up the dead cells.  You release all sorts of free radicals that are like fire crackers inside the neurons in your brain, firing off and damaging membranes left and right.  There are some chemicals that can help slow down that runaway domino rampage.  Vit C and E are pretty good at neutralizing those reactions.  Magnesium, selenium and zinc seem to help turn off that stuck calcium channel.

Not all brain cells.  Just half of your forebrain cells have glutamate receptors.  Just half.  It’s just those that get the toxicity.  For those of us who would like to hang onto that half, glutamate toxicity is an issue.  What to do?  How to be safe?

WWW: What will Work for Me?  We need to understand our environment, how our brains work.  And then, where are the hidden sources of glutamate.  That’s coming.  Do you get a headache when you eat or drink MSG or aspartate (diet soda)?  Have you googled “hidden names for MSG” and printed off the sheet from the internet?  Have you changed your buying habits and not buying any MSG?  How about aspartate? Next week.


MSG III and Dr Olney Before Congress

MSG III and Dr Olney Before Congress

Competency: Brain Health

Reference:  Russell Blaylock and “Excitotoxins, the Taste that Kils”

It didn’t take long after the discovery of pure MSG when a neuroscientist, Dr. John Olney, found that damage was caused to the retina in rats.  But it wasn’t just the retina.  The rats became grossly obese.  Chasing that down found similar damage all over the place in the hypothalamus of the rats.  Dr. Olney was able to raise enough of a fuss that he was called to testify before Congress in 1969 about the dangers of MSG.  At that time the MSG industry realized they had a public relations nightmare with possibly damaged children’s brains so they eased off and beat a strategic retreat.  They voluntarily removed MSG from baby food in 1969.  Humans eat baby food for just a few months.  There was much more money to be made in adult food.  A strategic removal quieted the uproar at the time and left 97% of the market in place.

But what about pregnant mothers?  Their babies were developing inside them and their mother’s weren’t being warned.  Dr. Olney was able to show in rhesus monkeys that there were brain lesions in their babies when the mother was fed the same level of MSG as is common in the American diet.   There was never any warning issued by the FDA to pregnant mothers to avoid MSG. And the final kicker is that humans turn out to absorb MSG at about 5 times the rate of rhesus monkeys and 20 times the rate of rats, the animals being tested in the lab.    In fact, humans get higher blood levels of MSG to a given dose than any other know animal, and we are eating levels of MSG on a par of what can be shown to cause damage in lab animals, all while we get higher blood levels in response. And children’s brains are about 4 times more sensitive to MSG than adult brains.  Do you see a dangerous path emerging?

And how about foods aimed at children who are slightly older than babies?  Can you imagine those cute little circular pasta dishes that come in cans and have tiny little pasta balls?  Have your children demonstrated enthusiasm for them?  Mine did?  In fact, that’s all they would eat.  Harried, rushed, busy parents are so grateful to find a food their children will eat that comes in a quick and easy can.  Just open it up, dump it in a bowl and microwave it and you and the spouse can have a nice dinner later when they are in bed.  Have you looked at the can label?  Look at the fine print on the bottom and see if you can find any of the following terms for MSG.  Caseinate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, flavorings, textured protein hydrolyzed plant protein, autolyzed plant protein, yeast food or nutrient, glutamic acid, vegetable protein extract.  Those are all names for MSG.  Many of your child’s favorite foods will have more than two or three of these names.  Manufacturers don’t have to put the final chemical in, just the ingredient and what it’s made from.  Most of those names are 40-60% MSG, but because they are made from the original product, they can be named as that product.

WWW:  What will work for me?   Go to the web site “Hidden Names for MSG” on Google and print out the list.  There are dozens more on the list.  Practice looking at them and using that list when you go grocery shopping.  I just went on a plane trip and asked for the spicy tomato juice.  It’s my favorite drink on plane trips.  Guess how many names for MSG I found on the label?   I’m so mad.  It’s all hidden, right before your eyes.  We’re going to talk about Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s, ALS and other nasty illnesses next week.  For now, let’s start with keeping our own exposure down as much as we can.  I bet you can find one product with at least 5 names of MSG on it.  I did.  Took me about 5 minutes.  Clue: it’s in the soup section.


Excitotoxins #2: MonoSodium Glutamate and Your Brain

Excitotoxins #2: MonoSodium Glutamate and Your Brain

Reference: Russell Blaylock Excitotoxins, the Taste That Kills

Competency:  Brian Health

Glutamate is not just an amino acid from which our proteins are constructed.  It turns out to be a critical and one of the most abundant neurotransmitters.  Here is how your brain works.  When a nerve impulse fires from one nerve cell, it passes on its message to another cell at a connection called a synapse.  At the connection, the first cell pushes out a tiny packet of different chemicals, often glutamate.  The glutamate floats across to the second cell where there are receptors into which the glutamate fits nicely, just like a lock and key.  That fires off the second cell to do its action.  We used to think there were just a few neurotransmitters but we now know there are dozens (about 50).  And glutamate is one of the central ones.  Aspartate and cysteine are two more amino acids that seem to attach to the glutamine receptors and turn them on too.   Around each synapse there are bunches of “nurse” cells that keep soak up extra glutamate and make sure the level is just right.  Like Goldilocks, their job is to make sure the porridge is not to cold or not too hot, that the glutamate level is just right.  It takes a ton of energy to do that.

You can imagine how you could mess up this delicate computer if the food we ate went directly into the brain.  Well, it doesn’t.  We have a very handy little feature called the blood-brain barrier which filters our blood and only lets just the right stuff through.  That way, the food we eat can’t just get right in there.  This blood brain barrier does a great job of keeping extra glutamate out when it’s not meant to be there.  BUT…. and there seems to always be buts, there are times when it doesn’t work so well.  Like when we have a fever, or are stressed, or are very young, or very old, or have had a head injury, or chemotherapy when our blood brain barrier breaks down and extra stuff gets in.  One key time is when we are hypoglycemic.  With low blood sugar, our nurse cells don’t get enough energy to clean up extra glutamate and then a tiny extra dose just seems to become magnified.  That leaves some of our cells exposed to more glutamate that they were meant to be.  Another leaky occasion might be a mini-stroke.  With the cell death from a mini stroke the glutamate can soak across many other cells and travel across the brain.  And finally, there are parts of the brain that just hardly have a blood brain barrier at all.  The hypothalamus (the part of the brain that controls your pituitary gland – your master endocrine gland) doesn’t have a very good blood brain barrier.  Nor does your pineal gland that sets your day-night cycle.  Nor does your locus ceruleus or circumventricular organ areas.

Here is the next rub.  When some cells get exposed to too much glutamate, they fire, and fire, and fire again, and again, and again…..and then they die.  Yes, they die.  Our brain cells get so fired up they just spin into a spiral of damage they just can’t get away from.  We know the exact chemical reactions how that occurs.  The glutamate receptor called the NMDA receptor requires glutamate as well as glycine, magnesium and zinc.  When all are present, as they usually are in a healthy brain, the cell fires just right and messages get passed on perfectly.  It’s when they aren’t in balance that we get in trouble.  With too much glutamate (or aspartate) they turn signals on too far, and can’t turn off.  Calcium floods into the cell and overwhelms all the delicate chemical balances.  And the nerve cell dies.  Taking down other cells around it in doing so.

WWW.  What will work for me.  My brain can get damaged?  You mean eating the wrong food can make my brain get into trouble?!!   Is this like plugging my computer into 220 voltage when it’s meant to run on 110?  Yup. That’s it.  Well, then we better know more about this.  My blood brain barrier works most of the time, protecting me from this chemical.  But I love the taste of glutamate.  Can I afford to be exposed to it when I’m not sure when I’m safe or when not?  Never before in human evolution have we had so much glutamate flooding into our bodies.  Do you think there might be a clue that many folks get a headache when they eat too much of the stuff on an empty stomach?   Tune in next week.  The plot unfolds.