JACKSON, Mississippi - Your diet could be your brain's biggest enemy. Why?
Consider this: Could the organic yogurt granny eats send her prematurely into Alzheimer's? Could your baby's diet be putting the child on a path toward attention deficit disorder?
Or could your daily soup slam you with migraines?
Dr. Russell Blaylock says all those outcomes are possible because of the flavor enhancer known as monosodium glutamate, or MSG.
All of those afflictions happen to lab animals that consume MSG. And humans are much more sensitive, especially when consuming it over a lifetime.
Blaylock said, "And instead of just giving a few doses early in life -- we give it throughout the entire life of the animal. When we do that, we see dramatic damage to that animal's brain -- not just to the obesity centers -- but to centers that control memory, learning, social interaction, social control."
As well as pain. Terry Strouss was about 10 when the headaches began.
"I started having severe migraine headaches. The pain was just unbearable," Strouss recalls. "There were many, many days that I would come home from school, nauseous, sick, I would go straight to bed and just stay there until the next morning."
That trauma continued through his teen years, with doctors suggesting he'd grow out of it. He didn't.
Eventually they put him on a drug.
Strouss said, "That at least made the headaches bearable, it took away the pain -- but the light array and depth perception problem was still there."
He could work, but it was far from a normal life. Things began to change when he saw a news program on how MSG could cause migraines. He began avoiding anything he knew might contain MSG.
"I noticed that, within a month, the headaches had subsided," Strouss said. "They were not there. And they were not as severe when I did get them later. My wife was amazed. She said, 'You were right, we need to continue this.'"
Headache specialist Dr. David Buchholz is certain that MSG causes migraines for literally millions of people:
Buchholz said, "That's exactly right. It's an excitotoxin, and it turns on this headache mechanism and makes you hurt like heck."
An excitotoxin is any substance that overexcites cells to the point of damage -- it acts as a toxin.
And there may be more to this public poison.
MSG can directly worsen autism, attention deficit disorder, and hyperactivity.
And MSG can cause the brain to be miswired, especially in the womb and the first few years of life.
That damage to brain connections can mess up nearly any aspect of brain function, from the control of hormones to behavior and intelligence.
That's what happens with infant mice.
After being fed MSG, they show no signs of mental damage -- until they're older and began to fail at complex tasks.
Bluntly put, they become stupid.
And humans are five times more sensitive to MSG than mice -- infants even more so. Blaylock believes the entire education system suffers as a result, even the ability to for students to get along with each other.
Blaylock said, "So the brain is still forming its connections, particularly the most important social part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, continues up to age 25, 26, even 27."
But what about MSG's impact on brain afflictions in older adults?
Blaylock says MSG may only be a contributing factor in starting brain diseases, but it definitely can make major neurological afflictions worse:
- Alzheimer's disease
- ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
They all involve excitotoxins doing harm.
Blaylock has written the only book on excitotoxins for the general public. He has updated that information in a book on health and nutrition secrets.
He says the key is staying away from MSG, but that's not as easy as it sounds.
"It's in all sorts of commercially processed food products that wouldn't taste like much if they didn't have this flavor enhancer added to them," Dr. Buchholz said. "And it's not always labeled as MSG or monosodium glutamate. It's labeled as hydrolyzed protein or natural flavors, and you'd never suspect it."
But Strouss does suspect it -- he and his wife have learned the names that hide MSG… and "how to do the grocery shopping -- reading labels, knowing what types of food to choose, what types of foods not to choose," Strouss said.
Those MSG-laden foods can be found when you see any labeled ingredient with the word "glutamate." And for the public, Blaylock says there's a simple truth: Avoiding MSG could be the best thing you'll ever do for your brain.
And he adds, don't be surprised when medical organizations and government agencies defend MSG as safe. He says that they simply don't understand the complex vulnerability of the brain.