Industrial food is harmful because glutamate and sweeteners harm the enteric nervous system, or the second brain, and the brain.
In this book, the author informs us about foods that cause harm to our brain and gastrointestinal tract (enteric nervous system, ENS). The culprits are convenience foods and ready-made preparations such as sauces and artificial flavorings, as well as soft drinks and too many sweets.
Hans-Ulrich Grimm pays special attention to monosodium glutamate and sweeteners, especially aspartame, but also deals with "Rita.." ("methylphenida..") and specific additives. He explains some of the side effects caused by consuming these substances.
It is, however, also important to know that monosodium glutamate is a salt of one of the amino acids and is present in almost all foods that contain protein. Only a minority of people suffer ill effects when they consume processed “free,” or unbound, glutamate.
The book highlights case studies from the print media, such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, and New Scientist.
Grimm selected only cases that have been substantiated by authenticated scientific evidence and cites the authors of each of these scientific papers. The book is therefore a comprehensive look at, or if you like, a sort of meta-analysis of the subject. Wherever possible, the food industry portrays an entirely different perspective (See also medicine and evidence-based medicine).
There is growing consensus in the scientific community that nutrition can permanently change the chemistry of the brain. However, neurotoxicity testing of food additives is still not carried out on a wide enough scale. Through industrial processing, many harmful chemicals are added to foods in order to prolong shelf life and enhance taste — with no regard to their impact on human health.
These additives can lead to an increase in speech, language disorders, autism, and attention deficit disorders in children and depression, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease in adults.
Grimm reveals many ways in which the gut (considered to be “our second brain”) affects people’s health, behaviors, and emotions. From this perspective, leaky gut syndrome (an imbalance in the gut flora and a damaged gastrointestinal wall) is considered to be the cause of diseases such as autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.
Here are some of the most important facts aimed to help the reader avoid the harmful effects of the drugs and food additives currently promoted by the industry:
A list of recommended further reading on the food industry can be found in the book reviews Lügen, Lobbies, Lebensmittel (Lies, lobbies, food), and Salt Sugar Fat.
The images I have added to this book review serve to break up the text and provide space for additional comments. There are no images in the book itself. The ones in this article are either my own, are public domain images, or are taken from Wikipedia.
For those interested, I have linked many terms to the corresponding Wikipedia entries (italics, last updated: October 2013). Links not in italics lead to articles of my own or are anchor texts.
Wikipedia can be a useful tool depending on the topic. However, it is often one-sided, presenting only the view of interested parties or the current opinion. This is often the case, especially for languages other than English, for example, for entries in German.
Note: The chapter titles and all quotations in italics are translated from the original German.
Contents and notes
A Blow to the Brain — Are We Eating Ourselves Stupid?
Bizarre Behavior — Chemistry and Character
High as the Sky — Glutamate, the Flavor That Can Kill Brain Cells
The Sweet Club — Money and Power: How the Industry Reacts to Criticism
Near to Nothing — What Goes to a Child’s Brain
More than Scary — Children on Drugs: The "R-Experiment"
Straight from the Can — Alzheimer’s and How Food Destroys the Brain
Red Hot Ears - Food and the Psyche — the Power of Feelings
Organ of the Year — The “Brain in the Gut”: How the Gut Has a Mind of Its Own
Listen to the Signals — The Gourmet Diet That Makes You Clever and Happy
Dictionary — What’s Good, What’s Bad: The ABCs of Brain Food
The author gives a list of keywords at the beginning of each chapter, and some of the chapters have several subtitles.
Wolfram Siebeck, journalist for Die Zeit is quoted on the cover of the book:
Yet another piece of consumer education from tenacious food detective Hans-Ulrich Grimm, the importance of which cannot begin to be estimated.
The back cover warns:
Industrial food can impair your mental performance and your emotional well-being.
Brain activity can be affected by a single meal. No other organ is as regulated by food as the brain is. What we eat greatly affects not only our intelligence, but also our mind and behavior. Until recently, brain scientists believed that the brain functioned to a large extent independently. It has only emerged in recent years that changes in modern dietary patterns have had and are having a dramatic effect on brain function.
Industrial food processing removes many nutrients from food that are vital to the grey cells, while adding chemicals that damage them. As soon as certain parts of the brain shrink, the level of intelligence falls. Brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have also been associated with nutrition.
Children are also affected. Many school children don’t want to or have difficulties studying and are inattentive or hyperactive. These conditions are often caused by chemicals in our food. Here are some examples of the above:
Monosodium glutamate is toxic to the nerve cells and can have adverse effects on sufferers of Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Almost six times more monosodium glutamate is produced today than was produced 25 years ago.
Color additives are being consumed in excess, especially by children. They are found in candy, cola, and ice cream. They can cause behavioral problems, hyperactivity, and learning disorders.
Although Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to healthy brain function, they have almost disappeared from our diet. They are being driven out systematically by pizza and sausages. These important fats are very sensitive, causing them to spoil quickly. They are therefore undesirable to the food industry, whose main aim is to have products with a long shelf life.
It's time to be concerned! Not too long ago, these “brain killers” didn’t play a major role in our diet. However, the authorities who approved them for use in food neglected to consider how toxic they are to the brain. Leading scientists now insist on examining, once and for all, the risks that such substances pose to the brain.
If you want to do your brain a favor, read Hans-Ulrich Grimm’s recommendations on how to promote “culinary intelligence.” Traditional cooking and gourmet cuisine are not only tastier, but also increase levels of intelligence and happiness. This is because the ingredients used in them have been proven to be good for the brain.
Dr. Hans-Ulrich Grimm (link in German), (born in 1955), is a journalist and author living in Stuttgart, Germany. He was an editor for Der Spiegel (German magazine) from 1989 to 1996, where his main area of research was industrial food. He has published several books on the topic. Grimm studied German language and literature, history, and education studies.
Grimm has written a dozen books including Vitaminschock (The vitamin shock) and Mund auf, Augen auf (Open your mouth, open your eyes). He has also written on health problems relating to the consumption of milk.
The book focuses essentially on the brain and the enteric nervous system (ENS) or the “brain in the gut.” As in the case of cancer, scientists have long claimed that the increase in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are simply a result of a longer life expectancy. This book reveals new information to the contrary.
Policymakers greatly underestimate how harmful today’s poor nutrition is to the brain, explains Dr. Beyreuther. The lack of neurotoxicity testing of food additives is especially tragic, he believes.
Many nutrients that are essential to the brain are removed from foods during industrial food processing, while chemicals are added that are harmful to the brain.
Beyreuther has noticed that the diet of many Alzheimer’s patients differs greatly to that of healthy people. He tells of one Alzheimer’s patient who reports having always eaten
canned fruits and vegetables in jars, and who shopped her whole life at Aldi and never at farmer’s markets (p. 15).
If the most recent findings in the field of neuroscience are anything to go by, supermarkets, according to Grimm, are
high-risk obstacle courses full of products which cause loss of brain cells (cerebral atrophy).
Are we eating ourselves stupid? he asks.
We have an imminent worldwide epidemic, warns Edward Truschke, president of the Alzheimer’s Association (United States) (p. 16).
This chapter opens with a short explanation by internationally renowned brain researcher and molecular biologist Dr. Konrad Beyreuther (link in German). Beyreuther, formerly of Harvard University and currently director of Network Aging Research at Heidelberg University says:
Although the brain makes up only two percent of total body weight, it burns up twenty percent of the body’s energy.
© CC-by-sa 3.0, 7mike5000, Wikipedia
|Truschke’s comment comes in the context of a global aging population (lubbockonline.com, July 2000). He predicts that 22 million people will have Alzheimer’s by the year 2025.|
© CC-by-sa 3.0, 7mike5000, Wikipedia
|Dr. Robert Katzman of the University of California, San Diego, believes this number will be as high as 45 million by 2050 (albeit thinking linearly).|
Between the ages of 65 and 86, Alzheimer’s cases double with every five years of age. Although there is no cure for the disease, advances in the early detection of symptoms are needed.
According to Ronald C. Petersen, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center of the Mayo Clinic, there are “currently” (in the year 2000) four million Alzheimer sufferers in the United States and a further eight million in other countries. It is astounding that our diet, the most significant cause of Alzheimer's, is not part of the discussion.
Instead of researching the causes of Alzheimer’s, Memory Pharmaceuticals is working away to find a pill to treat the symptoms. Biotech company Roche saw the opportunities behind this and signed a $50 million merger with Memory in November 2008.
Several modern studies show how healthy, or unhealthy, children’s brains are.
One in five first graders has a speech, language, or voice disorder, says Klaus Ring, managing director of the reading foundation ‘Stiftung Lesen’ in Mainz, Germany (p. 19).
Children today consume many chemicals with their food. This was not the case in the past. Far too many children suffer from such conditions as autism and Lou Gehrig’s disease (Amyotropic lateral sclerosis — ALS). And there are many more cases of depression and multiple sclerosis (MS), as well as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer's disease in adults.
Note: Although these findings can surely also be attributed to stress, it is evident that food affects us in many more ways.
Professor Dr. Michael A. Crawford, PhD, Imperial College, London, and director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition (IFBB) at the University of North London claims to have scientific evidence that proves we are losing mental capacity.
H. U. Grimm lists examples of brain changes in children from a number of radically different countries. He writes:
In India, one study showed that 56 % of school-aged students have learning difficulties. In Poland and the Czech Republic, the number of students with special needs has doubled. And in Russia, there is an increasing number of cases of mental underdevelopment, and this number is increasing two times more quickly in the cities than in the country. And finally, it is particularly disturbing that in some areas of Brazil the average brain size has been shrinking over the last thirty years.
Dr. Christopher Williams, PhD, a colleague of Crawford’s, blames industrial farming practices for the decrease in the average IQ. While high-performance fertilizers and pesticides hugely increase yield, they also greatly reduce the amount of nutrients in foods that are essential to healthy brain function. This has resulted in changes in the brain, according to Williams.
During times of stress, it is especially important to provide the brain with healthy nutrients. There is growing consensus in the scientific community that nutrition can permanently change the chemistry of the brain.
Richard Wurtman, MD, of the Clinical Research Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) explains that the individual components of even one single meal can
hugely effect brain function. Only since the twenty-first century has it become accepted that the brain can be modified and repaired and that it can even grow, explains Dr. Bruce S. McEwen, brain researcher at Rockefeller-University in New York.
Dr. James Fraser Mustard, (1927–2011), a highly esteemed Canadian scientist, reported
there was substantial evidence from animal and human studies that a child’s early experiences and nutrition are crucial to brain function in later life (p. 24).
Leading British brain researcher Professor Basant K. Puri of Hammersmith Hospital and The Imperial College, London, has published several books on the subject, and complains that children eat mostly junk food. This type of food is poison to the brain, and it is shocking what it does to it, he explains.
Professor Crawford and other experts see inadequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids as a major problem. The food industry and clever business people are therefore jumping on this marketing band wagon to promote supplements and other products. Food industry giants are not interested in the fact that we should simply return to eating natural foods. On the contrary.
The book highlights the fact that citric acid, which is used as a food additive in many foods, colas, and Haribo gummy bears promotes the absorption of aluminum in the brain. This is believed to be one of the factors that cause Alzheimer’s. Note: Aluminum is also known as additive E173.
The author tells the story of a young boy who suffers from autism (from Karyn Seroussi), and notes:
Obviously what we eat plays a huge role, and it plays a huge role that foods are increasingly moving away from their natural state. If there is an increasing amount of chemicals in the foods we consume on a daily basis, it makes sense that our body chemistry might sooner or later go awry and ultimately out of control (p. 35).
Note: Autism was first described by Eugen Bleuler in 1911. It has been spreading more quickly in recent years.
© CC-by-sa 4.0, Fred the Oyster, Wikipedia
Karyn Seroussi wrote the book Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. You can find her website here with a video at the bottom right.
The Autism Research Institute (ARI) website is very informative and has many useful articles.
Grimm cites a number of brain researchers such as John J. Ratey, MD, who discussed the brain’s center of emotions, otherwise known as the hippocampus, which is part of the limbic system and located in the cerebellum. The hippocampus releases endorphins, which are opioids and opioid peptides that the body itself produces. The limbic system governs emotions, but also intellectual achievement.
Ratey describes the typical autistic characteristic of withdrawing from almost all kinds of physical contact. Since the autistic brain doesn’t engage selectively, it is inundated with stimuli.
An extensive study published in 2002 at the University of California, showed a 270 percent increase in the incidence of autism between 1987 and 1998. It was shown that improved diagnostics did not account for this "growing".
The United States Department of Education reports an increase of 544 percent in the rate of autism between 1992 and 2001.
Unfortunately, other personality disorders are also increasing at an alarming rate. In 2001, the WHO reported that there were 450 million people with psychological disorders and behavior problems. See also the Thomas theorem (p. 37).
Children suffer from fear and developing aggression.
Andrew Stoll, MD, director of the Pharmacology Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts (see also above), believes that
the huge changes in our food have led to the increasing rates of psychiatric illnesses in the Western world.
Doctor and psychotherapist, Dr. Josef Zehentbauer believes that the balance of chemical messengers in the brain determines our personality:
Brain chemistry shapes feelings, allows us to experience things like love and hate, aversions and aggressions, dreams and desires, and envy and jealousy. It allows us to move and act, and to remember nice experiences and block out the horrible ones.
Michael A. Crawford believes that our ancestors’ brains weighed between 400 and 500 grams and that this has increased to 1'500 grams over time. He attributes this to the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids in fish, from the freshwater lakes of Africa as well as from rivers and the sea. This is, however, easy to refute. See note.
© CC-by-sa 3.0, soebe, Wikipedia
According to a study published in The Lancet in 1968, Savannah and bush buffalo have the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids, followed by plant sources and lastly fish.
We don’t need animal sources for omega-3 fatty acids because many seeds, for example, flaxseed (56–71%) and plants and algae have a far higher omega-3 content than fish or buffalo.
Food processing turns “good” unsaturated fats into trans fatty acids that cause an increase in LDL-cholesterol in the blood, which in turn causes coronary heart disease. This is what we call industrial fat hardening. There is no mention (yet) of the influence of nutrition on aggression, despite the fact that prominent scientists suggest there is a connection between them.
Omega-3 fatty acids are problematic to the food industry because polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) do not have a long shelf life. Andrew L. Stoll, MD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, has seen great improvements with simple diet changes, although he doesn’t give evidence of this.
According to brain researcher Dr. Richard J. Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, faulty brain circuitry may underlie at least the impulsive form of aggression. These neural circuits are what regulate our emotions. The brain serotonin system is damaged (p. 43).
The aforementioned author Karyn Seroussi and also Verena Karg from Leimen, Germany, both of whom have children with Asperger’s Syndrome, were able to prove that their children’s conditions were related to the consumption of milk and dairy products. They noticed that milk caused bloated bellies and bad breath and that without milk these symptoms disappeared and the children’s behavior was normal.
Through a website on autism in children, the women came upon the work of Dr. Karl Reichelt (Norway) (aka. Kalle Ludvig Reichelt), Paul Shattock (England), and Dr. William Shaw, PhD, (US), who had proven what parents had known for 20 years, that
dairy products worsen the symptoms of autism.
Gluten also adversely affects autism patients. Wheat, oats, rye, barley, and especially convenience foods (packaged food, ready-to-eat food) should be avoided (p. 45).
© CC-by-sa 2.0, Dr. William Shaw, amazon
The Norwegian researcher Dr. Karl Reichelt found opioid peptides in the urine of autistic children and these could be traced back to gluten and casein. (Wikipedia 1991)
The book Biological Treatments for Autism and PDD is also available in German as Biologische Behandlung bei Autismus & PDD.
Information on the subject on Wikipedia, at least as of December 2013, came for the most part from the food industry. I would like to draw attention to a double-blind study in which another neurotransmitter was simply used as the placebo (see more re p. 96 below). Of course, no difference was detected!
We also recommend Die gluten- und kaseinfreie Ernährung für Menschen mit Autismus, ADS/ADHS oder Allergien (The gluten- and casein-free diet for sufferers of Autism, ADD/ADHS, and allergies) written by educational researcher Susanne Strasser.
In the 1960s, Dr. F. Curtis Dohan found a connection between schizophrenia and the consumption of milk and grains. The GFCF diet, a completely gluten- and casein-free diet, has since been gaining popularity, at least in the United States.
H. U. Grimm discusses the history of research into the seat of the soul and mind (p. 46). Plato (427–347 BCE) regarded the entrails as the seat of significant parts of the soul, (note: the term “intestine” is used today, or in this context gastrointestinal tract would be better), the liver as the seat of the lower passions — such as lusts and greed; the heart as the seat of the higher passions — pride, courage, anger, and fear; and the brain as the seat of the mind.
Galen (130–200 CE) regarded the nerves and brain as the seat of the soul. In the Middle Ages, different chambers of the brain were seen as the location: the front for perceptual assets, imagination, and public spirit; the middle chamber for thinking and judgment; and the last chamber for memory.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) made perfect anatomical illustrations of the human brain.
René Descartes (1596-1650) thought that the pineal gland was full of “spiritus animalis” (animal spirits) which were very fine winds, or rather very lively flames in the filaments of the nerves.
Isaac Newton (1643–1727) believed the spiritus animalis was vibrations in the nerves.
Neuroscientist and medical historian Dr. Robert-Benjamin Illing of Medical Center — University of Freiburg writes in his book "Vom Loch im Kopf zum Neuron" (From the hole in the head to the neuron) that there was a lot of confusion about the subject even as late as the middle of the eighteenth century.
Emil Du Bois-Reymond (1818–1896) “discovered” in 1843 that there were electrical currents in the nerve tracts.
See note below for Luigi Galvani about this “discovery.”
Luigi Galvani (1737–1798) demonstrated on November 6, 1780, that frogs who had recently been killed showed muscle contractions when touched with rods of copper and iron. Later he also proved the electrical effect of lightning using earth and ground terminals and his knowledge of Benjamin Franklin’s (1706–1790) lightning rod.In 1792, Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) learned about the frog experiments, and later discovered the battery in 1800, presenting it in 1801 to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821).
Grimm describes Otto Loewi as a “German chemist.” But as a Jew, Loewi was forced to leave Austria at the age of 65 (Anschluss). He had won the Nobel Prize together with Henry Dale in 1936 and was forced to transfer his prize money into a Nazi bank account.
Dale discovered the hormone "oxytoc.." in the pituitary gland (hypophysis) in 1906.
German pharmacologist Otto Loewi (1873–1961) discovered a new substance that was excreted from his body after he had taken drugs.
Henry Hallet Dale (1875–1968) later identified this chemical as the neurotransmitter acetylcholin (AHc).
In his book "Körpereigene Drogen, die ungenutzten Fähigkeiten unseres Gehirns" (The body’s own drugs — the brain’s unused powers), Dr. Josef Zehentbauer (MD) demonstrates how
every thought and every feeling is carried by a specific combination of neurotransmitters.
Zehentbauer incidentally has written about a dozen books, the most famous of them "Die Seele zerstören – Neuroleptika – der verheimlichte Arzneimittelskandal" (Destroying the mind — antipsychotics — the drug scandal cover-up).
Experts believe that autism is a very particular form of food intolerance. Peptides cause problems in the brain and
cause an almost addictive craving for the harmful substances (p. 49). The food intolerance in turn can be explained by leaky gut syndrome.
Grimm lists convenience foods such as mashed potatoes sold by the companies Pfanni and Maggi as culprits. He advises that we not only avoid dairy products and gluten, but also all food additives that are harmful to the gut.
Dr. James Robert Cade of the University of Florida notice a remarkable improvement in 81 percent of children he treats who are put on a GFCF diet (gluten-free, casein-free). This has also been confirmed by Finnish nutrition researcher Teuvo Rantala, despite having been skeptical at first, as he admitted to New Scientist.
Parents of autistic children, Martina Siesing from Magdeburg, Germany, Verena Karg, and Sylvia Gottstein, both from Leimen, Germany, each have their own success stories (p. 51).
See also the website gfcfdiet.com.
The Kalveness family from Moss in Norway brought their son to Dr. Reichelt and saw positive results after only three months with the GFCF diet. The Seroussi family eliminated all symptoms of autism in their son by excluding convenience foods from his diet (p. 53).
The author sees the flavor enhancer glutamate as especially harmful, calling it
the flavor that can kill brain cells. He quotes the renowned and highly distinguished scientist Professor Konrad Beyreuther (born 1941, promoted to professor in the area of genetics):
Glutamate is a neurotoxin, and
an overstimulation of glutamate receptors is a critical indicator in all neurodegenerative diseases (p. 28).
It has been proven that the artificial sweetener (sugar substitute) aspartame (E 951) has similar effects to glutamate. Beyreuther carried out tests using the drug LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) to show how quickly the brain is affected.
The type of glutamate we are discussing is called monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Note: 20 µg is considered the normal threshold dose.
Andrea Eid discusses the risks and uses of glutamate as a food additive in her thesis "Glutamat als Zusatzstoff in Lebensmitteln –Nutzen und Risiken" (Glutamate as a food additive — uses and risks) (Grin Verlag, 2009). She discusses proven side effects of glutamate and explains how the food industry gets around the duty of declaration regarding the additive.
Grimm lists the possible side effects of consuming glutamate such as cluster headaches (p.57). Some substances were not known to be neurotoxic (neurotoxin) at the time of approval.