Excitotoxins and Testosterone: be Cautious with MSG and No-Calorie Sweeteners
Excitotoxins are compounds added to most packaged foods, which can bypass the blood-brain barrier, and wreck havoc in certain brain receptors. They have a really bad rep in the mass media, and some people seem to blame excitotoxins for just about any medical issue they can think about.
But is the rep justified, or are excitotoxins safe to consume?
Let’s find out:
Potential Dangers of Excitotoxin Consumption
The word “excitotoxicity” describes a pathological process where nerve cells are damaged or killed because of excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamate and other stimulatory compounds.
Most common of the excitotoxins is the notorious MSG (monosodium glutamate), which binds into the NMDA and AMPA receptors of the brain, causing the receptors to uptake too much calcium ions, which overexcites the receptors, and eventually damages them.
The negative effects aren’t only happening inside the brain. There is a legitimate concern that excitotoxins could also negatively influence testosterone production.
This happens because the oversynaptic activation of the NMDA receptors, shuts down some of the cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophospate) activity. And cAMP serves as a signaling molecule between the brain and the balls.
There’s also some theories about excitotoxins overexciting the androgen receptors of the brain in a similar manner than what is seen with the NMDA receptors. And few animal studies have shown a clear link between lowered testosterone levels, central nervous system damage, and excitotoxin intake in male rodents (study, study, study)
The manufacturers and their lobbyists work hard to sell us the idea that excitotoxins would be perfectly safe, while the “natural-health hippies” will tell you that the compounds slowly kill you.
I believe that the truth may fall somewhere in-between.
Yes excitotoxins can be bad for your brain health and testosterone production when continuously consumed, but no, you won’t get a brain seizure after drinking one bottle of aspartame sweetened soda. Besides, there’s no reason to fear sugar, so why would you use a substitute?