Diet & Neurodegeneration

“The more processed food you eat as an athlete the more likely you will suffer long-term damage from your concussion.” – Dr. Jack Kruse

Leave it to a smart friend to send me an article on diet and neurodegeneration called, "Where CTE, Diet and Neurodegeneration Meet" by Dr. Jack Kruse…thanks Robb.

I remember John Papadakis telling me, if I wanted to big and strong, I needed to eat big and strong. John played football at USC in the 60’s, and I played football with his sons, Taso and Petros. Taso took an interest in this weak kid and taught me how to lift weights. But his dad showed us how to eat. They owned a Greek restaurant and knew how to cook and eat.

Since those days, I have held the belief that people never got strong eating from a vending machine. Looks like I am going to have to revise my tag line to include new research.

Eating from a vending machine will not afford you the protection you will need to survive the demands of playing football. You need to be strong of body and mind and the chemicals in processed foods will contribute and speed up the damage your brain suffers during the violent impacts of contact sports.

“We also must remember that these athletes, soldiers, and high school students are simultaneously ingesting huge amounts of MSG and aspartame in a standard American diet.” 

What is MSG?

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a sodium salt or glutamic acid, a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid. It is used as a food additive and flavor enhancer. At one time it was made from wheat flour, but is now made from bacterial fermentation.

It is found quite often in Asian cuisine and is used by virtually all fast food chains in their processed foods. However, it is not contained to just processed foods, but can be found in dietary supplements, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Anything made with a sugar substitute likely contains neurotoxic aspartme, Equal, NutraSweet, or AminoSweet. The FDA allows food companies to use the name “natural flavor” to refer to MSG w/o the sodium salt attached in foods.

“In the last decade, acute neurologic trauma in the forum of concussions has made huge national news because of high profile injured athletes whose careers where cut short and in some cases their life ended. For decades, the issues of concussions in the NFL were accepted as collateral damage to the dangerous sport.”

When I came into the NFL in 1999, I was led to believe a concussion only occurred when you were knocked unconscious. Fast forward to 2010 when I was evaluated by the Amen Clinics for a study on NFL players, a concussion was re-classified as any hit where your vision blurs, you go crossed-eyed, have ringing in your head or ears or feel a dull ache in your head.

Once they tell you this, they ask, based on the new definition how many concussions have you had?

My Berkeley educated mind could only utter one word..."Fuck."

“The deaths of NFL players Mike Webster, Andre Waters, Terry Long, Tom McHale, and Justin Strzelczyk were the first wave of evidence that concussions and CTE were linked.”


“If the person has continued assault by exogenous excitotoxins, a leaky gut barrier, or by a leaky brain blood barrier the incidence of neurodegenerative disease can be easily estimated.”

In 2009, we launched the football site. The same year we started traveling the world educating coaches and athletes. In 2010, I added Talk To Me Johnnie in to answer a few of the questions I receive on a daily basis. The food was simple, red meat, chicken, fish, starchy and green vegetables, whole dairy, fruit, roots, tubers, bulbs, coconut oil, olive oil and avocados. Simple foods that have aided and protected our bodies long before we created this fad called the Internet.


Posted in Diet, Mental, Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

19 Responses to Diet & Neurodegeneration

  1. Todd L

    “…a concussion was re-classified as any hit where your vision blurs, you go crossed-eyed, have ringing in your head or ears or feel a dull ache in your head.”

    So based on this any hit that leaves you stunned with a headache, even if you are able to shake it off and continue playing, would be a concussion? Is there any guideline as to how many concussions like this a healthy person can sustain without causing permanent brain damage? Hell I’m 33 and can think of at least two hits during summer league lacrosse this year that would count. I’d hate to think how many I had in college. Pretty scary.

  2. Pingback: 21 Sep 11 - Crossfit Silver Spring

  3. John there is a lot we can do and there is much we will continue to do. I have many former retire athletes in my practice. I know what concussions and a bad diet can do. There are some immediate changes that must occur.

  4. Dana

    Slight correction. Glutamic acid is not MSG. I know all the health nuts like to say it is, but they’re wrong. Glutamic acid is a specific thing, and monosodium glutamate is another specific thing–completely different molecular structure, though they are related. Kind of like my mom and I are not the same person, though we’re related. You get what I mean.

    You actually need glutamic acid for certain processes, and it’s in a whole lot of foods so you’d be hard-pressed to get away from it.

    I’ve been curious for a while whether protein salts occur on their own in nature, or whether they must be made in a lab. If the latter, it might explain a lot about why so many of us react badly to it.

  5. Dana

    “in a lot of foods” = occurring naturally. In short, if we banned industrial foods tomorrow, you’d still run into glutamates.

  6. robert paulson

    crapola, as a former college boxer who was addicted to diet coke and chinese food jack kruse’s site makes for some uncomfortable reading. I can’t ever remember leaving training without my head ringing..

  7. B. Ibarra

    That article really hits home for me. Your reaction to the new definition sums it perfectly. There was a point for more where if I wasn’t seeing cross eyed I felt like I wasn’t playing hard enough. Makes me grateful to my brother for turning my onto your CFFB site and you for having that one & this one & turning me onto something that has really turned my life around.
    When first started out I was pushing 285 and suffering. I was suffering through arthritis and could barely walk around the block.
    These days I’m 225, living through my arthritis and making my 2 & 3 year old daughters chase me around the block.
    Thanks John keep up the good work!

  8. Pingback: September 22nd 2011 » CrossFit Lindy

  9. Jack – Let me know what we can do.

    I met with a neurologist today who when I asked him about diet relating to CTE and exasperating conditions results from concussion shook his head no. He felt there were too many other factors and diet was not a major player. I guess we have our work cut out for us.

  10. Fabien

    good looking out

  11. Steve

    Any issues with L Glutamine consumption?

    Thanks, Steve.

  12. Pingback: » Blog Archive » 230911

  13. L- Glutamine is fine. Glutamate is the problem. In the first part of the series there is a a list of all the synonyms that MSG goes under due to the food industry subversive ways. John today the New Orleans Saints announced that 35 year old special teams ace Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. I’m sorry to say another player is getting taken out early. John I think we need the retired players to keep the heat on because the science data in this area is becoming quite hard to ignore. Since these diseases all take some time to develop I think medical coverage for follow is critical. For regular joe’s who sustain trauma I think my last post in the series called the “Concussion Rx” should be considered in all cases. John since you are doing a lot still with football and with crossfit I’d like to think that maybe you could begin talking about this at your meetings and seminars to get the word out. I think getting players like Kyle Turley, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, and Frank Wycheck more involved is key. the last three careers were ended by concussions. Kyle is doing hard work in the retired NFLPA section. I think Wayne Crebet, Al Toon, Merrill Hoge and many others who lives have been altered by concussions would begin to speak out and talk about these issues. As for your doctor…….he is not staying up with science. Not surprising at all. You John, as a former NFLer, have a lot of “skin” in the game. We can change the world with a thought. This information needs to get out there. Every day there is more news of more disease hitting the shore.

  14. Doc,

    Thanks for commenting and you are right we need to bring more attention to this. Between this site and CFFB we get a ton of traffic and will start to spread the word.

    Let me know when you have some time as I would love to interview for the site.


  15. Pingback: KB Power Snatch, Ring Dips, Clean «

  16. Pingback: Links 10.3.11 « Links As Rx'd

  17. Pingback: Fitness, die funktioniert!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *