Around Our Town...To Your Health
Excitotoxins - Part II
10/01/2005 - Hello Again, I hope you enjoyed the first installment of excitotoxins and I hope you are ready for more. In quick review, we talked about the amino acid Glutamate and how it is an excitotoxin to our brain; that our brain can be damage by too much glutamate, by trauma (brain injuries from auto accidents, boxing, hitting a soccer ball with our heads too many times, etc.), and of course our diet, which currently consists of mostly processed foods which use glutamate to enhance the taste of otherwise boring foods.
Now I want to discuss glutamate's partner in crime, Aspartame (also known as Nutrasweet). Aspartame is actually two amino acids, Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine. Some history about this product may be of interest to you. For a product to get FDA approval it must pass three independent evaluations. Aspartame flunked 10 of 13 of these evaluations and the FDA review panel did not recommend it's approval. However the head of the FDA overruled the panel and got its approval. In an article called The Role of Excitotoxicity in Neurodegenerative Disease published in Pharmacological Therapy 1999, it related Aspartame to a whole host conditions including gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, and neurodegenerative disorders (neurodegenerative refers to a degenerating condition which affects our brain and/or nervous system). One of most celebrated Parkinson's spokespersons, Michael J. Fox, retired from his hit TV show due to increased tremors, which are associated with the disease. It has been found that due to the chemical make up of Aspartame it could break down in the body as formaldehyde. The formaldehyde will accumulate in your body's cells. (Gives a new meaning to pickling yourself.) Now that you have a brief taste (no pun intended) of Aspartame, let's discuss it's effect when combined with Glutamate. In the March 3, 1994 New England Journal Of Medicine it stated that excessive amounts of excitatory toxins (Glutamate and Aspartame) is the common factor in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Epilepsy, Parkinson's, different Dementias and other neurological disorders (WOW!).
The amount of excitotoxins that are put into foods grows each decade. We show concern that the amount of sugar a child consumes will make them "hyper". We should also show the same concern for the amount of excitotoxins that they are consuming and the effects to their nervous system in the long term. These excitotoxins can also pass in the placenta from the mother to the child. If that's not bad enough, baby food manufacturers are also putting glutamate in baby food to make it tastier.
I will stop here and let you digest this information (I couldn't resist). Start looking at your labels on your food and be amazed. Yes some will complain that it's in everything. The main point is -- if you are concerned about preventing problems from developing you must be educated regarding the sources of problems and minimizing their occurence. Until next time....
Marc Delgadillo, D.C. is a Chiropractor practicing in Casper.