Monthly Archives: August 2008

Activism Healthy Living Kids & Family

What Are Excitotoxins?

If you knew that the consumption of many store products could cause brain damage and other related disorders, would it have an influence on your buying habits?

An increasing number of scientists and clinicians who have conducted research are releasing information showing just how dangerous these substances are and why they are  a major culprit in the growth of prevalent neurological disorders including seizures and migranes, autism, allergies, particular disorders of the endocrine system, certain types of obesity, infections, and abnormal development in the nervous system.

These toxins are also linked to having an effect on the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Huntington’s Disease. Many of these types of substances are found in processed, packaged foods found in your grocery store.

What are some products containing excitotoxins?

Here is a list that is not exhaustive: soda pops, “juice” drinks, crackers, rice cakes, bagels, breads, cereals, “energy drinks”, cereals, food “bars”, salad dressings, pasta mixes, soups, candy, desserts, “fruit” snacks, sugar-free gums, cocoa mixes, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, shake and topping mixes, sauces, vitamin and herbal supplements, and many others.

Pioneering research on excitotoxins

According to Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., pioneering neurosurgeon and medical expert on the subject, “Excitotoxins are biochemical substances (usually amino acids, amino acid analogs, or amino acid derivatives) that can react with specialized neuronal receptors – glutamate receptors – in the brain or spinal cord that can be responsible for causing death or injury to a wide array of neurons.”

Glutamate neurons make up an extensive network throughout the cortex, hippocampus, striatum, thalamus, hypothalamus, cerebellum, and visual/auditory system. As a consequence, glutamate neurotransmission is essential for cognition, memory, movement, and sensation (especially taste, sight, and hearing).

“Glutamate and its biochemical “cousin” aspartic acid or aspartate, are the two most plentiful amino acids in the brain. Aspartate is also a major excitatory transmitter and aspartate can activate neurons in place of glutamate”, as reported by Dr. Blaylock.

Although glutamic acid (also called “glutamate”) is the naturally occurring, primary excitatory neurotransmitter in the brains of humans and animals, these substances are found to occur only in minute amounts. Since 1948, the amount of MSG added to foods has doubled each decade. By 1972, over 200 thousand metric tons were reported as added to foods. Since first approval, over 800 million pounds of aspertame have been consumed from billions and billions of products.

The FDA is amiss in acknowledging these findings, and has continued to allow certain substances on the food market such as aspartame (found in NutraSweet and Equal), MSG, and hyrdrolyzed vegetable protein. You can find these substances in nearly all processed foods – particularly in those labeled low and non-fat and also can be found in a vast amount of vegan and vegetarian foods.

If you are in doubt about something, read the label. Label reading is one of the only ways to familiarize yourself with ingredients in products. The more you can avoid purchasing processed products, the better your chances are of avoiding these dangerous toxins.

Short-term effects of these substances are subtle. It is important to note that repeated exposure over long periods of time (or cumulative) is generally when the most damage occurs to health. But occasionally, certain individuals are especially sensitive to the effects of excitotoxins, and can develop severe symptoms quite suddenly such as allergic reactions that range from irritability to cardiac irregularity to sudden death.

Why are these substances being added to foods?

Many additives in foods are intended for their preservative qualities. Excitotoxins don’t actually preserve foods – they only make them taste better. The bottom line is, adding these toxins to food is really only for the purpose of “improving ” the flavor. And some people question whether these foods actually do taste better or not.

Use caution when purchasing anything in a package, can, or container as it may contain excitotoxins without consumer awareness. Any ingredient listed as the following can contain a dangerous excitotoxin: spices, natural flavoring, yeast extract, textured protein, soy protein extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein. In other words, excitotoxins are amino acids which react with specialized receptors in the brain. When excitotoxins encounter these receptors, the result is destruction of certain brain cell types.

One of the most commonly found excitotoxins is MSG (monosodium glutamate). When located in the brain, this excitotoxin is considered a normal neurotransmitter. It is the most commonly used neurotransmitter, in fact, by the human brain. Then why are excitotoxins considered so dangerous? When naturally occurring monosodium glutamate is found in the brain, it is in very minute amounts. Any amount larger than concentrations of 8 to 12 ug is considered toxic and can cause erratic movement in neurons and abnormal firing behavior.

Clearly, rethinking what we are putting into our bodies is very important. With so many processed foods on the market, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, confused, and mislead about whether or not these products are safe for consumption. Read the facts before you buy.

Recommended reading on this subject:

Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills by Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.

Living Dangerously: Are Everyday Toxins Making You Sick? Pat Thomas

The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien

Activism Real Food

Corn-Fed Equals Corn-Bred

Do you believe the kind of feed your meat eats has an effect on your health? Indeed, it does. The majority of the meat, eggs, and milk available for sale in stores comes from animals raised in the most unnatural of environments – on feedlots, near waste lagoons, owned by farmers who administer antibiotics, growth hormones, and steroids, and the animals are given some of the most unnatural feeds that they are not meant to consume; corn – among other substances, such as grains and soy.

So why do we really care if the meat we’re eating has been fed corn? An eye-opening expose of the agricultural, cattle, and dairy industries can be seen in the film ‘King Corn‘ and answers this very question. This awakening piece, originally aired on PBS’s Independent Lens, shows what happens when two curious friends decide to spend a year growing an acre of corn in Iowa because they want to find out why a good portion of our carbon make-up is comprised of corn. In the film’s beginning, the friends go to a University lab where a scientist takes their hair samples to analyze and determine the contents. The results are surprising: their DNA test reveals a carbon form comprised of corn. The film shows how over time the humble corn plant, which started as an import seed brought from southern lands, mutated into the genetically engineered, ubiquitous substance that fills nearly every food and drink sold in stores and restaurants across our land.

According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Before farming and the industrialization of America, humans almost exclusively ate vegetation (fruits and vegetables) and animals that ate vegetation (wild game and fresh fish). Nuts were occasionally consumed and honey was sparsely consumed. Interestingly, current research has demonstrated that this pattern of eating is anti-inflammatory, disease-preventing, and therapeutic for various diseases depending on the level of progression”.

We have been told by medical sources and affiliate communities for years that lean, low-fat diets are the healthiest to eat. We have even been brain-washed into thinking that eating red meat is unhealthy and should be avoided. Americans consume more meat now than ever before in the past, and the demand continues to rise. Besides processed, junk foods which have become a prevalent part of the Western diet, much of this excess saturated fat which medical professionals refer to comes from sedentary animals on factory farms who are fed inappropriate diets. Meat and meat products are healthy and necessary to consume from animals who are raised sustainably and fed grass and hay. “Lean meat consumption can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improve satiety levels, increase caloric expenditure, and improve insulin sensitivity,”as reported by Cordain L. O’Keefe JH Jr., the Mayo Clinic (2004). On the other hand, those who continually consume obese and fatty meats, which make up the majority of choice on the marketplace, will continue to have issues such as heart disease, obesity, and the feeling of always being hungry.

Grass-fed meat and meat products provide the proper amounts of high protein, low fat, low caloric and essential fatty acid balance for optimal human health. Anything besides that combination will eventually lead to a decline in health. It is important that when we refer to the negatives or the benefits of meat and meat products we are specific to naturally-raised meats fed grass diets or the industrial variety raised in artificial conditions – because eating one or the other will render quite opposite effects. Some reports convey that modern meat has become leaner by volume than in the past, and health professionals claim that eating meat is now considered more healthful than previously believed. But these reports fail to take into account that most meat comes from factory farms where the quality of meat technically qualifies as “obese” meat, or meat than causes health issues to occur when consumed.

If all the meat we consumed in our country came from clean, sustainable farms where animals were treated humanely and were fed the proper diet, we would see a monumental shift in environmental damage and health problems alike. The problem is, there are many individuals who believe that eating meat is harmful, and have not been able to grasp the entire picture of what has been occurring. The more factory meat we produce, the more we demand it. The meat lacks proper nutrition and protein, and contains far too many calories and fat, which translates into malnourished bodies that crave more and more carbohydrate content, leading to obesity. Eating truly sustainable meats from animals that are fed proper diets, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables promotes health, correct weight, and good environmental balance. We would eat less meat if our meats came from truly natural, healthy environments.

This over-consumption of obese meats and meat products is one of the driving forces behind our nation’s health ills. It takes education, perseverance, and action to reverse these problems. It’s time to lose our ignorance about this subject once and for all. To learn how you can do something about it and put and end to atrocities such as industrial farming, visit the following web sites:

World Animal Foundation

Farm Bill

Sign a petition to stop factory farming:

The Petition Online

Land Stewardship Project

WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals)