There’s no shortage of things that can damage your brain. Some chemicals commonly found in food can have a negative impact on the way your brain functions, especially if you have certain medical conditions to begin with.
Here’s a quick look at some of these potential neurotoxins found in the foods we eat every day.
Gluten is a protein molecule found in wheat, as well as in rue, spelt, barley, and kamut.
This protein is what gives bread dough its sticky consistency, but it does more than that – when consumed, it binds to the wall of the small intestine, where it can cause all sorts of problems for those with gluten sensitivity.
Gluten sensitivity is a fairly common condition, affecting many people worldwide. Celiac’s disease is the most common form of gluten sensitivity(1), but non-Celiac’s gluten sensitivities exist as well.
For those with even a mild sensitivity to gluten, this protein can cause systemic reactions in the body, affecting the intestines, the nervous system, and, yes, even the brain(2).
2. Sugar Substitutes
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are hugely popular due to the fact that they contain fewer calories than regular sugar.
But are they really better for you than sugar?
A 2008 study suggests that aspartame, in large enough doses, can cause neurological dysfunction such as learning difficulties(3).
The safety of aspartame has been questioned widely, going back to a 1987 study which implied that aspartame could have a negative impact on seizure disorders(4).
Other artificial sweeteners made of similar compounds purport to be safer, but there is much anecdotal evidence implicating these sugar substitutes in headaches and other physiological symptoms. The FDA has formally approved the use of aspartame, but many opt to avoid this artificial sweetener just the same.
There’s no shortage of rumours about the food additive MSG.
Some people say it causes cancer and is linked to multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, and more, while others swear by its safety.
But what is myth and what is reality when it comes to this common additive?
Fortunately, scientists have done numerous studies on this “flavor enhancer,” determining that MSG does in fact cause the dose-dependent swelling and death of mature neurons in the brain(5).
4. Refined Sugar
While alternatives to refined sugar may not be healthy for you, sugar itself isn’t necessarily your brain’s friend, either.
In fact, a 2002 study in the journal Neuroscience determined that a diet high in fat and refined sugar actually reduces neuroplasticity, the factor which allows us to learn new information and skills(6).
There is also evidence that sugar can be an addictive substance, similar in effect to coffee and cigarettes(7).
Known for being a common additive to drinking water, fluoride is generally considered harmless in small enough doses, but high doses of this chemical can cause significant brain damage(8), a fact which has caused many individuals to call for a ban on fluoridated drinking water.
Still, there is significant controversy within the scientific community about just what levels of fluoride are safe for human consumption; while some studies state that even relatively small amounts of fluoride can affect an individual’s IQ scores, others claim that it is only known to be a neurotoxin in much higher doses(9).
Given this disparity, it is important for individuals – especially those living in areas where tap water is fluoridated – to educate themselves about what people are saying regarding fluoridated water.
While most of these additives, chemicals, and proteins won’t kill you immediately, there is evidence that significant doses should be avoided.
Moderation is key when it comes to regulating the food that you eat – too much of any of these ingredients are sure to be bad for you.
Whether you choose to avoid them entirely or simply limit your exposure to them is up to you.