A few years ago, I was taking my turn running the snack bar at the baseball field, during one of my son’s high school games.
(It’s not a task I relish, selling poison to children, but it’s a requirement, of the baseball parents.)
A father at the game thought GreenSmoothieGirl selling Snickers bars and soda was a riot. He showed me his bag of caramel rice cakes and asked me if they qualified to hit my nutritional standards.
I told him, “If you look at this table, I bet you can’t guess what my pick for WORST snack is.”
Here, I’ll tell you the options and you can guess. Laffy Taffy, Snickers, Hershey’s Chocolate, 3 Musketeers, Red Vines, Roasted Peanuts, Salted Nut Bar, Spitz Sunflower Seeds, Fruit Snacks.
He said, “Well, it’s not the peanuts.”
He guessed Laffy Taffy. Nope. (It’s awful, of course, but there’s even worse.)
It’s the Spitz Sunflower Seeds (Dill or Barbecue flavor). They’re full of MSG, a deadly neurotoxin.
I’d take sugar, over that substance, any day. (And you know what I think of sugar.) And I’ll tell you why–related to a painful learning experience in college.
MSG (monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer) is the worst neurotoxin in our food supply, it belongs nowhere in the diet of children, or anyone who cares about their brain and nervous system.
MSG is in cream-of-whatever soups, Doritos, ramen noodles, commercial salad dressings and dressing mixes, and thousands of packaged foods.
What do MSG and other neurotoxins do?
I ate Top Ramen and bananas, as my staples, throughout my sophomore year of college.
Not only were these foods cheap, but I was without a car until the following year, and I could carry a bag of groceries from the store to my apartment.
I’ve never been sicker, than that year that I ate Top Ramen every night for dinner. I found myself falling off the sidewalk as I’d walk to school, with terrible vertigo. And I kept getting viral and bacterial infections. I was also having chronic, debilitating headaches.
It took the whole year to connect my bizarre and worsening symptoms to the MSG in the Top Ramen seasoning packets. Ramen noodles, made of white flour, refined salt, and MSG aren’t something I would ever eat now. Or feed my family.
Sure, Top Ramen costs $0.25 each ($0.10 back then), but the savings weren’t worth the lost days spent in bed, ill or with headaches, unable to catch up from the classes I was missing, not to mention the money I spent at the Student Health Center trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
These neurological symptoms are common in people who eat MSG or other neurotoxins in the processed food supply.
Studies on MSG eaten during pregnancy showed that it crosses the placental barrier. The resulting offspring had neuron death and damages typical of adults eating MSG–damage that affects the ability to learn, remember, balance, and process information coming from other nerves in the body. (1, 2)
Neurotoxins have a wide range of effects, depending on what area of the brain they damage, and how many brain cells they kill.
Headaches and dizziness like I had are common, but so are mood disorders, sleep issues, behavioral problems, cognitive impairment, reduced motor skills, and even seizures.
And there are a lot of different neurotoxins in our food supply, usually as flavorings or preservatives. Besides MSG, there are nitrites in cured meats, artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and saccharine, and Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic containers and lining the inside of canned goods.
Aspartame, a chemical sweetener with a brand name of Nutrasweet, and MSG, are probably the most well documented, and ubiquitous, food additives that cause neurological damage.
(Don’t worry about remembering all the names of these chemicals–I’ve got a great gift for you that you can print out and stick in your wallet, for when you shop. This way, you can remember what to look for, and avoid it!)
Why are neurotoxins allowed in our food?
I do not subscribe to the idea that the FDA acts in the interests of public health and protects us. That’s another topic entirely, but for instance, it’s the FDA that approved and continues to allow MSG on the market, which can now be called by several other names to hide it in food labeling.
(Again, don’t worry–I’ve got a wallet card for you, to educate you about all the ingredients to avoid.)
The U.S. government’s FDA also approved aspartame and refuses to remove its endorsement, despite hundreds of thousands of health-related complaints.
(This is just one example of thousands of chemical drugs or food additives that were well known, for many years, to cause major health problems, with our government refusing to protect us, with labeling laws or outright bans.)
A number of former FDA executives are on record saying that what you THINK the FDA does, and what it actually does, may be two very different things.
My point is, whether or not the FDA approved something is close to irrelevant. Even if you ignore the egregious conflicts of interest the head of the FDA and her minions have, even if you believe it to be a clean organization operating only in the interests of public health rather than Big Pharma’s and Big Food’s interests, it’s a massively overworked workforce that cannot keep up with requests and approvals.
It’s up to you and me to take charge of our own health, to be educated about where the dangers lie and how to avoid them.
How to avoid neurotoxins in food
I’ve written before about the environmental neurotoxins typical in the US and other industrialized countries–they can be tough to avoid.
But we have a lot more control over whether we ingest neurotoxic food additives. It’s not always as simple as looking at a food label, though, because food manufacturers use a lot of different names to sneak these chemicals into an ingredient list.
MSG, for instance, can be known by 12 names other than “monosodium glutamate.”
Watch out for these neurotoxic ingredients on food labels (and get the printable card I made for you, so you have a portable list to put in your wallet):
I’ve got all this information compiled for you, on a printable wallet card. I’d love to send it to you–you can print it as many times as you like–make a few and give them to other people you love.
(Don’t want to print? Let me do it for you! This wallet card, along with 9 other health shortcuts and cheatsheets, is included in the Genius Guides!)
1. Gao J, Wu J, Zhao XN, Zhang WN, Zhang YY, Zhang ZX. “Transplacental neurotoxic effects of monosodium glutamate on structures and functions of specific brain areas of filial mice.” Acta Physiological Sinica. 1994. 46 pp 44-51
2. Gill S, Barker M, Pulido O. “Neuroexcitatory Targets in the Female Reproductive System of the Nonhuman Primate.” Toxicologic Pathology. 2008. 36(3) pp 478-484