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Weight Loss and Excitotoxins

Weight Loss and Excitotoxins

by Laura J Hieb, ND on August 17, 2022

What do exocitotoxins have to do with weight?

Well, they make you fat.....Among other things.

And what are excitotoxins anyway?

Excitotoxoins are a class of chemical substances that over stimulate brain cells (neurons) to the point that they eventually die or cease functioning.

I don't know about you, but I want to keep all my brain cells alive and functioning!

Excitotoxins are made from 3 amino acids: glutamate, aspartate  and cysteine--more about this last one  later.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and they have the ability to cross the blood brain barrier, which helps to keep unwanted things out of our brains.

Fortunately, these amino acids are not found in large amounts in nature.

But they are found abundantly in processed foods and namely in monosodium glutamate (MSG) and Aspartame (aka NutraSweet).

What do scientists do when theywant to fatten rats?  They feed them MSG!

Artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet have also been shown to cause weight gain and even diabetes.

What else do  excitotoxins do?

They cause inflammation, suppress the immune system, negatively impact blood sugar levels (leading to weight gain), and, as noted above, damage parts of the brain, often those associated with regulating emotions and hormones (by killing neurons).

What else are these excitotoxins associated with?

Allergy symptoms, brain fog, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, irregular heartbeat, joint pain, learning disorders, skin rashes, sleep disorders, and even seizures!

Where are these found?

Well MSG is used as a flavor enhancer and found in processed foods and in some Asian restaurant foods.

So you think, that's easy, I'll just avoid MSG.

Not so fast!

MSG is listed under many different names on processed foods ingredient lists.

Here are some of them:

Yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, textured protein, textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate and hydrolyzed oat flour.

Wait, there's more!

Other possible sources of MSG include bouillon, commercially made broth, flavoring, natural flavoring (more on this one too, later), natural beef flavoring, natural chicken flavoring, malt extract, malt flavoring, maltodextrin, seasonings and spices (not specifically identified/listed separately), commercially made stock, carrageenan (also may decrease immune system function), soy protein concentrate, or other protein concentrates, soy protein isolate, and soy milk.

Reading labels is a definite must!

Yet some of these sound so.....natural!

Let's take a look at the term "natural".

Wood is natural. Stones are natural, belladonna is natural... Would I eat the wooden desk I'm sitting at to write this? Or pebbles in my garden? Certainly not belladonna!

So basically "natural" means nothing.

Also, there is a FDA loop hole: when processed food manufacturers do not want to disclose something on their foods' labels, they can simply list "natural flavors " on the labels (same for "fragrance" on non-food products).

So even if MSG is not listed on the label in one of its many guises, it still may be in there, in the "natural flavorings".

FYI, gluten is often listed under "natural flavorings".

As for aspartate, the main source, as stated above, is NutraSweet, so that's pretty easy. NutraSweet is often found in diet soft drinks and in the artificial sweetener Equal.

Now for cysteine.

Homocysteine, is a chemical that is a marker for increased cardiovascular disease risk--not good!

But N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a great antioxidant. So don't avoid it.

Just make sure you are eating foods rich in B-12 (animal protein) and folate (green leafy veg) and you won't have to worry about having high levels of homocysteine.

Just avoid MSG in all its forms and aspartate in the form of aspartame (NutraSweet/Equal) and that will help you lose weight.