My friend Karl took umbrage about my post on MSG, suggesting that my opinion on it was not a convincing enough perspective as it was not backed up by referenced research. He also believed that my conclusions on MSG were unfounded based on his own understanding of the topic. I pride myself on being well-informed, and while I am only expressing my personal opinions on any topic in this blog, I don’t believe I do so from a place of ignorance – except when it comes to the Kardashian sisters. When something interests me, I read multiple perspectives and use my brain to draw conclusions, even if all of the information is not clearly presented in a nice little package.
It will come as no surprise that I believe MSG is a VERY bad and toxic additive in our food chain, and I am convinced it will be proven in my lifetime, as was the case with Transfats. While the last blog was focused on MSG – because I was having such a shocking reaction to it at the time – I also believe things like artificial sweeteners (like Aspartame), High Fructose Corn Syrup, unnatural food dyes, Sodium Nitrite, BHA and BHT (E320), Soy, Tatrazine, and many, many other things are all poisons in our food chain. Heck I recently read an article stating that wheat has been manipulated to such a point, with significantly less varieties available than we had 100 years ago, even eating a whole grain diet is now harmful to us…. but that’s another topic.
Getting back to MSG. It was “discovered” in its natural form just over 100 years ago. MSG was then extracted and has been sold commercially around the world ever since. The real challenge with MSG does not come in its natural form, but in the way it is fermented on a massive commercial scale and is now found in just about everything we eat – essentially if it’s not in its raw form, it’s got MSG. The mass production of MSG started in the 1950s and has only grown, and many believe it is the fermentation process applied to its mass production that is creating an inferior and poisonous product – here’s another perspective. For me Soy, amongst many other additives, sits in the same bucket – the mass production techniques are making it bad – why else go to so much effort to “sell” it as a healthy alternative?
I’m not going to try and convince you of anything here, just wanted to share some research and my personal thoughts on various issues, which I believe are linked to MSG and other additives. There’s a lot of shit in our food chain that scares the crap out of me – crikey we’re even eating genetically modified salmon – and they don’t even know what the long term impact will be? Not just that, the majority of governments are not making it mandatory for it to be labelled, which means the consumer can’t even make an informed decision about buying it? That’s outrageous to me.
I do not believe that any of us are even remotely capable of understanding the big picture and the impact this is going to have on our minds and bodies, because there is not a co-ordinated or global approach to this topic – but the increase in certain “diseases” and mental illnesses (like Alzheimers and Autism) seem to have a direct correlation to the rise of shite in our food chain. That is my personal belief. Suffice to say, it would take a LOT to convince me otherwise.
There is so much more I could say on this, so many arguments I could raise, so many concerns I could discuss, I could talk about the food manufacturing industry’s self interest, the power of lobbying groups, research that supports the arguments for this crap, the fact that livestock is fed on soy and corn so even if we try to avoid it we still get it in our bodies if we’re not vegetarians, and so much more, but then I’d have to write a book – and I am not an expert on this topic, just a very concerned consumer. However, I wanted to share my perspective because it WORRIES ME, but I am not saying I’m right. I could be so far off the mark it’s not funny, but I don’t think I am.
For me, having read multiple perspectives on this and other issues, I remain convinced that something very very bad is going on in our food chain, and the corresponding increases in certain diseases, for me, are proof of that. The problem is nothing is conclusive on this topic, because we are not looking at these issues from a global perspective and the data is not being collected in a unified way – so how can we ever prove it if we aren’t even trying to look at it seamlessly?
Another argument is that the massive increase in mental illness is being attributed to the fact that people are living longer. As the baby boomers enter their dotage, age is being cited as the key reason for the increases – nothing to do with additives and preservatives. But that argument doesn’t wash with me when I look at statistics on autism, ADHD, etc… Typically considered “young” people’s diseases…
One thing is for sure, if you read any of the research below, the governments of the world are SHITTING themselves, because these increases are going to cost TRILLIONS for the healthcare industry – awesome for the drug companies huh? Perhaps rather than drugging them, or taking any other approach, governments can assess additives and preservatives as a priority? But then, it’s not going to be a current government’s problem is it, so why bother?
As my friend Karl said, a person starving to death doesn’t care if is MSG in the food. He is right. But that is a different issue. The issue I am discussing here is about the impact these additives are having on “well-fed” societies all around the world (body and mind), and the rise in mental illnesses, suicides, and more, all convince me that there is something very very wrong going on.
So make up your own mind, but all I ask is please think about this stuff. It is something I think about every day – especially as I want to nourish my boy’s bodies with great fuel. I can’t grow my own organic food, and I wouldn’t want to as green thumb I am not. I live in a city – I like living in a city – and even though I’ve made that choice, I would still like to be able to buy GREAT food for all of my family and not be sold lies that something is good for me when it most certainly is not. Is that too much to ask?
Yours, without the bollocks
PS: if you feel like exploring this topic, I’ve collated lots of links – not all supporting my argument BTW, but a starting point on this huge and very complex topic for anyone interested.
MSG and other additives have been linked to many mental illnesses, here’s some coverage on two examples
Links between Alzheimer’s and MSG
A report talking about the rise in Alzheimer’s, which is obviously attributed to a growing aging population
Not specifically related to MSG, an article on the rise of Alzheimers in younger people, although the family referenced have a genetic anomaly
The rise of Alzheimers world-wide
Or maybe it’s not MSG but Mad CowsDisease? J
An interesting perspective, but of course, this is the most populous area of the planet with a growing aging population – but if it is MSG related, well… “The largest increase in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s will occur in Asia, where 48 percent of the world’s Alzheimer’s cases currently reside. The number of Alzheimer’s cases is expected to grow in Asia from 12.65 million in 2006 to 62.85 million in 2050; at that time, 59 percent of the world’s Alzheimer’s cases will live in Asia.”
Some stats on Autism
A bit of history on autism
Some more interesting data in relation to Autism and the thimerosal theory, which has only reduced the occurrences marginally
Maybe it’s caused by TV?
As you’ll see, completely inconclusive because no one country measures it the same way, and the increase in diagnosis does not directly correlate to an increase in cases, but interesting
Autism linked to the Environment
Let’s now look at the link between additives and mental disorders
“The growth in the use of food additives has increased enormously in the past 30 years, totalling now over 200,000 tonnes per year.45 Therefore it has been estimated that as today about 75% of the Western diet is made up of various processed foods, each person is now consuming an average 8-10 lbs of food additives per year, with some possibly eating considerably more.5“7 With the great increase in the use of food additives, there also has emerged considerable scientific data linking food additive intolerance with various physical and mental disorders, particularly with childhood hyperactivity.8“31” The interesting point for me – increased enormously in the last 30 years
The Truth About the 7 Common FoodAdditives – as you can see, inconclusive, so I’m wondering why they put the truth, but then, perhaps the inconclusiveness is the truth?
Research linking crap in the food chain to mental health increases in the last 50 years
Scary, US teenagers given drugs rather than assess other potential reasons
An article I like that suggests we need to change our children’s diets, and I couldn’t agree with it more
An extensive report entitled “FeedingMinds – The Impact of Food on Mental Health” –
And here’s some other stats of interest
An article that downloaded in Word, so have cut and pasted it below
Are Our Kids the Sickest Generation?
More kids than ever before are diagnosed with bipolar, ADHD, allergies, and asthma. Why, and what does it mean for your child?
By Jean Weiss for MSN Health & Fitness Oct 21, 2007
Did you leave out the peanut butter sandwich when you packed school lunches today? Most everyone knows at least one family that has a child with a serious food allergy. Yet a generation ago, we’d scarcely heard about the problem. The same can be said for several conditions now on the rise in children. More kids are getting diagnosed with bipolar, ADHD, allergies, and asthma in this decade than in previous decades. Some attribute this increase to improved diagnosing, others to over-diagnosing. Still others view the sick-kid trend as the proverbial canary in the coalmine: More children are getting sick because they are fragile and affected by an increasingly industrialized world.
“I do think we are in the midst of an epidemic of these child disorders,” says Dr. Kenneth Bock, co-founder of the Rhinebeck Health Center and author of Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, Allergies (Ballantine Books, 2007). “I don’t believe it is all due to better diagnosis.”
Bock suggests that children predisposed to these medical conditions are more likely to manifest them after cumulative exposure to pollutants such as heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, flame retardants, and chemicals from plastic additives to name a few. “All those kinds of things together are increasing the toxic load on children,” he says.
The simplest thing parents can do for their child is decrease their exposure to toxins, Bock says, whether it means eating pesticide-free food or avoiding heavy metals and harmful pollutants found in myriad products such as toys, computers, and clothing. “This is a recent phenomenon over the last 20 years,” says Brock. “We are living in a chemical soup, and it’s the kids that are the most susceptible.”
The link between environment and child illness is especially evident in conditions such as allergies and asthma. The tie to bipolar disorder and ADHD has been more complex to identify. Most experts in the field of pediatric mental disorders attribute the increase in diagnosis to a better understanding of mental illness, saying it could be that environment plays a small role.
ADHD: Up by a whopping 400 percent
Increased understanding of mental disorders in children has also led to a rise in the pediatric diagnosis of ADHD, by as much as 400 percent or higher over the last 25 years, according to some estimates. It is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in childhood, affecting between 3 percent and 5 percent of school-age children in the United States. Worldwide use of prescriptions to treat ADHD in children has increased by 274 percent, with the United States prescribing more medication for ADHD than any other country.
“More attention was paid to mental health issues in children during the ’90s when people realized that a lot of conditions that related to the brain start in childhood,” says Dr. Ben Vitiello, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health and a leading expert in child and adolescent ADHD.
Vitiello says that some of the increase could be due to partial diagnosis of ADHD in children. He discounts the theory that environmental toxins are the cause of the majority of ADHD, though new research has been done examining whether food additives and coloring contribute to ADHD. “The impact of these environmental toxins is very small, if present at all,” he says.
Sometimes children with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed to have ADHD. Children with sleep disorders can present with ADHD symptoms, so sometimes they are diagnosed with the mood disorder as well.
Bipolar Disorder: A 40-fold increase among kids
Bipolar disorder is another area in which kids have shown more susceptibility in recent years, a phenomenon experts attribute to improved understanding that mental illness affects children as well as adults.
A study published in the September 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry reported a 40-fold increase in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder over the last decade. The study isn’t comprehensive enough to determine the reasons why, but a snapshot view of the trend, says co-author Dr. Gonzalo Laje, an associate clinical investigator at the National Institute of Mental Health. “What this study could be suggesting is that there may be an increased recognition of the disorder and therefore it is being diagnosed more,” says Laje. “It could also mean it is an overdiagnosis, but we can’t in any way categorically say it is or it isn’t. Probably it is a combination of both.”
The study of serious mental illness in children and adolescence is more recent. “Twenty-five years ago people would even debate whether the diagnosis [for bipolar disorder in children] existed,” Laje says. “Symptoms of serious mental illness in children and adolescents are now recognized. Today nobody argues that this diagnosis exists.”
To identify bipolar disorder in children a physician still relies on an adult model of symptoms, however, so they are still defining how the symptoms manifest in the pediatric population. “We are catching up on our criteria,” says Laje.
There is also a noteworthy overlap in the pediatric population between bipolar and ADHD. According to Laje, 30 percent of children with bipolar also have ADHD, and it is an area for further study.
Allergies: 40 percent of children now have allergies
Dr. Asriani Chiu, associate professor of allergy and immunology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, says more children react today to allergies due to the interplay between genetics and environment. “There are genetic tendencies—we know that allergies run in the family—but [there are] definitely environmental triggers as well,” Chiu says.
Chiu says an increase in industrial pollutants, combined with cleaner living conditions, have interfered with the natural function of our immune system, which is meant to be exposed to germs and protect our bodies from illness. “Because we are not exposing ourselves to all of the dirt and the endotoxins that we would have seen, say, if we lived on a farm, our bodies have nothing else to do,” says Chiu. “Then pollutants make our respiratory tract more susceptible,” and our immune system kicks into overdrive—essentially overreacting to foods, or to other allergens, in children already prone to allergies.
Allergies are divided into two categories: food allergies and upper respiratory tract allergies. The later type of allergy is less closely associated with food allergies, and more closely associated with asthma (a condition of the lower-respiratory tract).
From 1997 to 2002, child food allergies increased from .68 percent to between 2 percent and 4 percent; adult food allergies remained the same slightly more than 1 percent. And Chiu says there has been an increase in upper respiratory tract allergies, now affecting 40 percent of children. Another troubling side effect of allergies is the link to asthma: Two-thirds of patients with allergies affecting their upper respiratory tract also develop symptoms in their lower respiratory tract.
Asthma: Up by 160 percent
Asthma, an inflammation of the lower respiratory tract that creates coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, is closely linked to allergies and has also been on the rise among children. Chiu says that asthma, like allergies, has increased due to an increase in environmental pollutants that irritate the lungs, making them more susceptible to inflammation and asthma. She also attributes more diagnosis of asthma to an increase in awareness of symptoms. “It could be that we are better at identifying these conditions,” says Chiu. “There are doctors and families and teachers noticing this more.”
Asthma rates in children under age 5 increased more than 160 percent from the 1980s to the 1990s. Of people with asthma, 70 percent also have allergies—and children, Chiu says, are more likely than adults to get asthma triggered by an allergic reaction. “More than 70 percent of people with asthma also suffer from allergies, meaning there is an allergic component to their asthma,” says Chiu. “We realize that there is a strong connection between the two.” So much so that an oft-used way to treat asthma is to first treat allergies. “It is the single airway hypothesis,” says Chiu. “If you can gain better control of the upper respiratory symptoms, then you have better control of the lower.”
Sleep Disorders: Difficulty Here May Be a Cause or a Symptom
Sleep, or rather lack of it, is a favorite topic among parents who incessantly ask each other: Are you getting any? Some childhood sleep troubles are normal. Others, it turns out, could be a red flag.
We now know that 25 percent of children have some type of sleep disorder, but data on whether this is an increase is scarce. “We haven’t been keeping statistics on sleep for all that long,” says Dr. Judy Owens, an associate professor of pediatrics at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I., who runs a pediatric sleep disorder clinic. “The few studies that have looked at prevalence of sleep disorders in general pediatric clinics show higher rates of sleep problems now compared to 30 years ago.”
Now that sleep is on the radar, researchers are discovering it plays a key role—both as a precursor to serious childhood disorders and as a side effect. Sleep issues in children have been linked to obesity, asthma, allergies, ADHD, and bipolar disorder.
Obesity, asthma and allergies in kids are risk factors for sleep apnea. The misery of allergies and asthma (trouble breathing, itchy skin, some medications) can also disturb a child’s sleep. But the relationship between sleep and ADHD, as well as other mood disorders, is just now beginning to be understood. “There is mounting evidence that sleep problems may be the early sign of psychiatric disorders,” says Owens. “Clearly sleep problems exacerbate mood issues, and mood issues make sleep problems worse.”
The link between bipolar disorder and sleep is less understood, except that children in their manic phase need less sleep. “I do see a lot of kids who initially get diagnosed with ADHD and the diagnosis evolves to bipolar, and those kids have tremendous sleep disorders,” says Owens.
It’s more common for children with ADHD to have sleep issues, she says, due to issues that often go along with the disorder, such as anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems. A subgroup of kids with ADHD has trouble regulating its sleep, just as it has trouble regulating its attention. But if your child can’t sleep, and is having trouble focusing at school, don’t worry yet. Conversely, Owens says, a child with sleep problems often displays ADHD symptoms, so it’s possible you just need to figure out how to get that kid more ZZZs.