Natural Solutions Radio header image


The Health Sciences Institute e-Alert

April 10, 2003


Dear Member,

The study of Parkinson's disease may have just taken an important leap forward with a new study that reveals a clue as to exactly who may be most at risk to develop this extremely debilitating disorder.

But whether you're in a Parkinson's high-risk group or not, there's one very common food additive you need to be aware of that may intensify the symptoms of Parkinson's while causing a wide variety of neurological problems for those who don't have the disease.

Variation on a gene

Could an inherited defect in cell mitochondria (an important energy producing component of the cell) make people more vulnerable to Parkinson's disease? This is the question researchers at the Duke University Medical School asked when they designed their study, which they say is the first to recognize genetic risk factors for Parkinson's.

As reported in this month's issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, the Duke researchers examined 9 well-understood gene variations in 609 Parkinson's patients and 340 control subjects that showed no signs of the disease. One gene variation, called "J hapologroup," was found to be much more common in subjects that didn't have the disease. Furthermore, the variation was more common for those in groups (such as Caucasian females) that tend to have a lower incidence of Parkinson's. Their conclusion: The inherited J haplogroup gene variation would appear to be protective against the cell mitochondria defect that's typical of Parkinson's patients.

Although encouraged by their breakthrough, the researchers noted that because all of their subjects were Caucasian, additional biochemical and genetic studies will be needed on a wider variety of ethnic groups to fully understand exactly how the J haplogroup variant manages to protect cell mitochondria.

Not created Equal

In a Duke University press release, the lead author of the Duke study, Jeffery Vance, M.D., discussed the difficulties of researching a disease as complex as Parkinson's, which is caused by both genetic and environmental factors.

Dr. Vance didn't go on to name what those environmental factors might be, but studies have shown that pesticides may be a very likely cause, as well as possible toxins in processed foods. And according to a growing body of evidence, the primary toxin among food sources is the popular sugar-substitute aspartame - better known by its brand names: Equal and Nutra-sweet.

In an e-Alert I sent you last month ("Choose Your Poison" 3/6/03) I told you how aspartame has been shown to make the unpleasant symptoms of Parkinson's even more severe for those who have the disease. That of course is bad enough, but it seems that aspartame can also trigger reactions in otherwise healthy people. In some cases these reactions mimic the symptoms of Parkinson's, as well as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and fibromyaliga, to name just a few.

Raging hormones

In 1994 the Department of Health and Human Services released a list of more than 60 reported adverse reactions to aspartame, including: chest pains, asthma, arthritis, migraine headaches, insomnia, seizures, tremors, vertigo, and weight gain.

The surprising item on that list is "weight gain," given the fact that aspartame is the sweetener used in most diet sodas. In fact, according to one study, aspartame may actually STIMULATE appetite, prompting cravings for calorie-rich carbohydrates.

But weight gain is nothing compared to some of the horror stories out there.

On an HSI Forum thread titled "Fear The Turtle," a member named John shares some of the details of how a steady intake of diet soda prompted a debilitating hormonal reaction to aspartame. The details are no less than tragic, although John was fortunate enough to discover the source of his physical and neurological disorders in time to take the necessary action to nurse himself back to relative good health. I say "relative" because apparently he will never fully return to the robust health he once enjoyed.

John's story is fascinating, and you can read the full account of his case history (along with several others) on a web site called "Aspartame Poisoning Information Site" (

Poison by the liter

The cause of most or possibly all of these adverse aspartame reactions is methanol. When aspartame is combined with the enzyme chymotrypsin in the small intestine, methanol is released and breaks down into formaldehyde, a potent neurotoxin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers methanol to be a "cumulative poison" and recommends a safe consumption of no more than 7.8 mg per day. If you drink a one-liter beverage containing aspartame, you ingest 7 times that amount - about 56 mg of methanol!

But it gets even worse. Because if the product containing aspartame is heated to a temperature above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, "free methanol" is created, speeding up the absorption of methanol, and magnifying the effects of the neurotoxins. Nevertheless, in 1993 the FDA approved the use of aspartame in food items such as gelatin desserts that require heating well over the 86 degree range.

The result? People are hurting - people like John, whose life will never be the same. According to the FDA's Adverse Reaction Monitoring System, approximately 75 percent of all complaints received about food additives are aspartame related. That's right: 3 out of every 4! And yet the FDA still refuses to acknowledge the evidence that aspartame is essentially poison.

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and you don't need a federal agency to state the obvious: Don't drink the aspartame.

...and another thing

Is cabbage beautiful? To a nutritionist it is. Not quite as glamorous as the tomato or as elegant as the carrot, cabbage is, nevertheless, nutritionally gorgeous.

In yesterday's e-Alert I told you about the interesting misconception of "vitamin U." That was the name given to the juice of cabbage cores - a treatment that's reported to quickly heal various stomach ulcers. And although vitamin U (from the "u" in "ulcer") has not been formally recognized, there's no question about the high nutritional value of cabbage.

One of the cruciferous cousins in the vegetable family, cabbage has an excellent ratio of calories to nutrients - that is: low in calories, high in nutrients. With good amounts of vitamins C, A, and B6, cabbage is also an excellent source of calcium (as an HSI member pointed out yesterday), phosphorus, and choline, which helps maintain the neurotransmitters that support memory.

Cabbage also contains three important phytochemicals (plant chemicals that assist in disease prevention): sulforaphane, indoles, and phenolic acids, all of which are believed to help impede the production of cancer cells, as well as decrease inflammation.

If there's a health drawback to cabbage, it would be the remote chance that it could inhibit your body's utilization of iodine - a potential problem for those with abnormal thyroid function. But this would only be a concern if you were eating an excessive amount of raw cabbage.

So the next time you cruise past the vegetable stalls, don't let those flashier veggies distract you from the lowly, but oh, so nutritious cabbage.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

Copyright Issues?