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Brown Deer teacher warns committee about dangers of 'excitotoxins'

Jan. 9, 2013

Brown Deer - One teacher says food may be the district's biggest challenge when it comes to academic success.

In a follow up to a previous meeting, Brown Deer High School social studies teacher Robert Thompson warned the school board's Teaching & Learning Committee on Tuesday of the dangers of "excitotoxins," substances found in everyday foods that cause, according to a report shared by Thompson, "excitotoxicity, a mechanism in which certain brain cells are excited to death."

The report, based largely on "The Taste That Kills" by retired neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock, indicates a number of common ingredients - MSG, aspartame, soy sauce and bouillon, to name a few - could contribute to cell death and ultimately disorders like autism and Alzheimer's.

"My goal is to eventually talk about making changes," Thompson said. "We're in the business of building brains, not destroying them."

Superintendent Deb Kerr said the district will speak with its food service provider to begin determining how much of the food it serves contains substances mentioned in the report.

While committee members didn't say how they would go forward with instituting Thompson's changes, many agreed that the typical diet is unhealthy, and were surprised to see many commonplace ingredients in the report.

"You almost can't find foods without these things," said committee member Erin Leedom.

Committee members and Thompson agreed that the district should start by informing parents and students of the danger of excitotoxins. Committee member Clinton Wray suggested a hands-on approach.

"(Students) could have sort of a cook-off to … prepare food and bring it in and see what tastes good," said Wray, "so they can see how hard it is to make things appetizing and taste good, and still be healthy."

School Board member Kevin Klimek told the committee to be wary of ever-changing dietary advice, and emphasized teaching kids how to know what is good for them.

"You almost need to teach continuous learning," Klimek said. "Part of it is teaching them to understand what's going on."

Whichever direction the district goes, Thompson said it needs to get as many people involved as possible.

"There's not just one answer and there's not just one person," he said. "It has to be a true community effort."

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