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Dr. Russell Blaylock - So, what is an excitotoxin?

Posted Nov 12 2008 1:23am

There are a growing number of clinicians and basic scientists who are convinced that excitotoxins play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders, including migraines, seizures, infections, abnormal neural development, certain endocrine disorders, specific types of obesity, and especially the neurodegenerative diseases; a group of diseases which includes: ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and olivopontocerebellar degeneration.

An enormous amount of both clinical and experimental evidence has accumulated over the past decade supporting this basic premise. Yet, the FDA still refuses to recognize the immediate and long term danger to the public caused by the practice of allowing various excitotoxins to be added to the food supply, such as MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and aspartame.

The amount of these neurotoxins added to our food has increased enormously since their first introduction. For example, 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. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener.

The public must be made aware that these toxins (excitotoxins) are not present in just a few foods but rather 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.

Experimentally, we know that when subtoxic (below toxic levels) of excitotoxins are given to animals, they experience full toxicity. Also, liquid forms of excitotoxins, as occurs in 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.

So, what is an excitotoxin?

These are substances, usually amino acids, that react with specialized receptors in the brain in such a way as to lead to destruction of certain types of brain cells. 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.

Defenders of MSG and aspartame use, usually say: How could a substance that is used normally by the brain cause harm?

This is because, glutamate, as a neurotransmitter, is used by the brain only in very , very small concentrations - no more than 8 to 12ug. When the concentration of this transmitter rises above this level the neurons begin to fire abnormally. At higher concentrations, the cells undergo a specialized process of cell death.

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