Friday, May 9, 2008

Chemicals in food


The proliferation of ads for junk foods is becoming more and more outrageous. Commercial after commercial on TV sells us on the idea that packaged, processed, low-fat, low-calorie, low-sugar, artificial packaged goods are indeed foods.

It seems to be working. I heard a 9-year-old girl tell her dad that she had found a cheese puff snack with no fat, no sugar, 200 calories that was really good for her. Yikes. It's a sad state of affairs, and the problem is that food industries are adding chemicals and synthetic substances designed to improve taste and confuse our brain cells, so that these foods actually taste amazing in a chemical sort of way and are addictive. It is a carefully orchestrated, multi-billion-dollar business, but with a little awareness we can protect our health and well being.

It is more important than ever to avoid processed synthetic foods and stick to whole foods grown from the earth. The food industries are adding, in the disguise of "natural flavors," toxic chemical substances that research shows to be harmful to our health, and are suppressing these findings. A study done on airline pilots was published in Hardcopy magazine. After consuming aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in diet foods, beverages and sugar substitutes, pilots had seizures and/or became confused. Aspartame is commonly found in diet sodas, chewing gum and yogurt. It may be linked to neurodegeneration, memory loss and cancer.

MSG, notorious in the past for being used in Chinese food restaurants, in reality is in almost all packaged foods under disguised names. It enhances taste by stimulating brain cells and produces an "excitotoxic" effect in which it literally stimulates brain cells to the point of their death, destroying neuronal pathways in the process.

The problem is that monosodium glutamate is often sneakily labeled, and is commonly found in soups, chips, diet foods and drinks, cereals, baby foods and most packaged, processed food. Commonly disguised names are natural flavors, vegetable protein, textured protein, protein extract, enzymes, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, spices, broth and stock.

Those most susceptible to these food chemicals are pregnant mothers and the baby, children under 4 years of age, the elderly and those suffering from degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, MS, and Alzheimer's. According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon and author of "Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills," if a patient with MS eats a food with MSG his or her symptoms will worsen for days after.

In his research, Blaylock found that excitotoxins produce destructive free radicals that kill brain cells and wreak havoc throughout the body. Research on animals exposed to glutamate showed that their livers, kidneys and ovaries were smaller than normal, they were obese and they had abnormal reproductive capabilities. They also exhibited unprovoked rage, aggression and antisocial behavior, abnormal endocrine functions leading to early onset of puberty, and loss of growth-hormone production and shortened height.

Consumers need to pay attention to false advertising and consumerism. Use your instincts to buy fresh, vibrant whole foods that are grown in mineralized soil. Your body will recognize and use these foods to promote energy, happiness and health.

Molly Peppo has a nutrition consultation practice and will open a live food café in Ketchum in June.

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