MSG Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills
MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a taste enhancing and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. At the time of discovery, MSG was thought to be safe since it was a natural substance (an amino acid). The amount of MSG alone added to foods has doubled in every decade since the 1940’s and by 1972 262,000 metric tons of MSG were produced. In 1957 two ophthalmologists, Lucas and Newhouse decided to test MSG on infant mice in an effort to study an eye disease known as hereditary retinal dystrophy. When they examined the eye tissue of the sacrificed animals they made a startling discovery. MSG had destroyed all the nerve cells in the inner layers of the animals retina which are the visual receptor cells of the eye.
Ten years later John W. Olney, M.D. a neuroscientist working for the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis repeated Lucus and Newhouse’s experiment in infant mice. He found that MSG was not only toxic to the retina, but also to the brain. When he examined the animals brains, he discovered that specialized cells in a critical area of the animals brain, the hypothalamus, were destroyed after a single dose of MSG. At this time the concentrations of MSG found in baby foods was equal to that used to create brain lesions in experimental animals and in all these experiments, immature animals were found to be much more vulnerable to the toxic effects of MSG than older animals (this was true for all animal species tested).
The FDA refused to take action after Dr. Olney informed the FDA and it was only after his testimony before a Congressional committee that the food manufactures agreed to remove MSG from baby foods. But instead of adding MSG, added hydrolyzed vegetable protein, instead. Today EXCITOTOXINS are still added to our food, usually in the form of caseinate, beef or chicken broth, or flavoring. In experimental animals “MSG babies” are found to be short in stature, obese and have difficulty reproducing. This effect only becomes evident long after the initial use of MSG exposure. More detailed studies have found that “MSG babies” have severe disorders involving several hormones normally produced by the hypothalamus.
MSG is not the only taste “enhancing” food additive known to cause damage to the nervous system. They all share one important property. When neurons are exposed to these substances, they become very excited and fire their impulses very rapidly until they reach a state of “extreme exhaustion”. Several hours later these neurons suddenly die as if the cells were excited to death. As a result, neuroscientists have dubbed these class of chemicals “EXCITOTOXINS.” Several EXCITOTOXINS are man made,- others are found in nature- such as glutamate, aspartate and cysteine – all which are amino acids. MSG is a modified from of ‘glutamic acid’ in which sodium is added to the molecule. But the toxic portion is the glutamic acid, not the sodium. Often manufactures will mix MSG with other substances to “disguise” it.
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein also referred to as vegetable protein, or plant protein is a mixture made from “junk” vegetables,- unfit for sale, especially selected so as to have naturally high contents of “glutamate”. The extraction process of “hydrolysis” involves boiling these vegetables in a vat of acid, followed by the process of neutralization with caustic soda. The resulting product is a brown sludge that collects on top. This is scraped off and allowed to dry and the end product is a brown powder that is high in 3 known EXCITOTOXINS – glutamate, aspartate and cystoic acid (which converts in the body to cysteine).
It’s then added to the food manufacture.
All these chemicals stimulate the taste cells in the tongue, thereby enhancing the taste of food. Another excitotoxin additive is the artificial sweetener Nutra-sweet, 40% of the compound is composed of the excitotoxin “aspartate”. Like glutamate, aspartate is a powerful brain toxin, which can produce similar neuron damage. It is well recognized that ‘liquid’ forms of excitotoxins are much more toxic to the brain than dry forms, as they absorb faster and produce higher blood levels than when mixed with solid foods.
But the negative effects of excitotoxins are not limited to small children. There is growing evidence that excitotoxins play a major role in a whole group of degenerative brain diseases in adults – especially the elderly. These diseases include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and more disorders of the nervous system. What all these diseases have in common is a slow destruction of brain cells that are specifically sensitive to excitotoxin damage. More and more diseases of the nervous system are being linked to excitotoxin build-up in the brain. For example, disorders such as strokes, hypoxic brain injury, hypoglycemic brain damage, seizures, migraine headaches, hypoxic brain damage, ADD, ADHD, and even AIDS dementia have been linked to excitotoxins ‘damage’.
There is evidence that some individuals born with “metabolic” defects in certain brain cells may be particularly susceptible to excitotoxin damage. The food industry and representatives of the glutamate manufactures have joined together to fight anyone who would dare criticize the use of flavor enhances, in fact they have formed a special lobby group to counter any negatives about their product. This group is called the Glutamate Association and is made up of representatives of major US food manufacturers and the Ajinomoto G. based in Japan, the chief manufacturer of MSG and hydrolyzed protein.
The ‘neuron system’ within the “hypothalamus” appears to use glutamate as a “neurotransmitter”. The pituitary gland “Master Gland” controls the other endocrine glands, such as the adrenals, the thyroid and reproductive organs by releasing small amounts of it’s controlling hormones into the blood. What controls the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus – it controls hormone releasing factors that stimulate the pituitary to release hormones. By the feed back control, the hypothalamus “regulates” the hormone balance in the body.
Sort of a hormone thermostat.
The discovery by Dr. Olney was particularly important, because the hypothalamus plays an important role in “controlling” so many areas of the body. The hypothalamus regulates growth, the onset of puberty, most of the endocrine glands, appetite, sleep cycles and waking patterns, the biological clock and even “consciousness” itself. When MSG feed in doses similar to those found in human diets, destroys hypothalamic neurons. Later experiments demonstrated that MSG could cause the hypothalamus to secrete excessive amounts of a reproductive hormone (luteinizing hormone) which is associated with an early onset of puberty. Many of these endocrine effects appeared at an older age.
The primary purpose of us eating is to support the chemical reactions of the body. Many of the substances absorbed from our food plays a vital role in the overall metabolic process of life. When adult humans are fed 100-150 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of MSG, their blood levels rise 20 times higher than normal as compared to a four fold rise seen in experimental mice fed a comparable dose. A child’s brain is four times more ‘sensitive’ than an adult brain to these toxins. Glutamate and aspartate are “s” neurotransmitter (the keys) found normally in the brain and spinal cord and even though they are two of the most common transmitter chemicals in the brain and spinal core, when their concentrations rise above a critical level they become deadly “toxins” to the neurons containing “glutamate receptors” (the locks).
What this means is that excessive glutamate will not only kill the ‘neurons’ with the receptors for glutamate, but it will also kill any neuron that happens to be connected to it, even if that neuron uses another type of transmitter. Both glutamate and aspartate can cause neurons to become extremely ‘excited’ and if given in large enough doses, they can cause the cells to degenerate and die. It is for this reason that the nervous system carefully controls the concentration of these two amino acids in the fluid surrounding the neurons (called the extracellular space). Even small doses can damage these neurons without actually killing them. Within 15-30 minutes after being exposed to high doses of MSG, neurons suspended in tissue culture are seen to ‘swell’ like balloons. Within 3 hrs. those neurons are not only dead, but the bodies defense mechanism begins to haul away the “debris”.
Be aware, the FDA does not regulate the amount of carcinogens allowed in “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” or the amount of hydrolyzed vegetable protein allowed to be added to food products. Manufacturers disguise MSG- in foods it is disguised as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, natural flavorings and spices, each of those may contain 12%-40% MSG.
MSG-free: Avoiding the hidden sources
“Sufferers of monosodium glutamate (MSG) toxicity syndromes have long been dismissed by the makers of glutamate and food additives and by the FDA, whose labeling standards for foods containing the controversial flavor enhancer are fairly lax. For many of these MSG sufferers, the experience of coping with the ambiguities of food labeling leaves them feeling like Han Solo navigating his way through an asteroid field. Not only is it confusing – it can be very dangerous.” ~WebMD
What is MSG toxicity syndrome?
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) toxicity syndrome occurs in response to free-glutamic acid, which is a breakdown product of protein after it has been processed by a food manufacturer. While all protein has glutamic acid bound in it, it is only the glutamic acid that has been freed from the protein before it is consumed that causes the reactions. Growing numbers of patients and physicians and some scientists are convinced that the ingestion of this processed free-glutamic acid can cause adverse reactions in one or more organs of the body. In 1969, H. H. Schaumburg, an MSG researcher who helped educate the public and the medical industry about the dangers of MSG, concluded that up to 30 percent of the population had sensitivity reactions from the MSG in an ordinary diet.
Symptoms that MSG can bring on
Reported MSG reactions, which can occur as a result of consuming even small amounts (much less than the 1/2 gram the FDA considers to be low), include migraines; hives; mouth eruptions; numbness; tingling; swelling of mucous membranes in the oral, gastrointestinal or reproductive tract; asthma; runny nose; insomnia; seizures; mood swings; panic attacks; diarrhea; and cardiac irregularities. Sufferers of MSG’s effects are not experiencing an “allergy.” Instead, they are experiencing the results of direct nerve stimulation and possible nerve damage, although the latter has not been verified in humans. Emergency room physician George R. Schwartz, author of “In Bad Taste: The MSG Symptom Complex,” says MSG is a “neurotoxin,” a substance that actually induces nerve ‘changes’ and possible nerve ‘damage’.
Despite the fact that MSG causes known toxic reactions, and despite the fact that some labeling does exist, MSG-sensitive individuals are still at risk for becoming severely ill from food they buy at the store or order off a menu.
1. Most processed foods contain MSG. Kathleen Schwartz, president of NoMSG, a New Mexico-based nonprofit group, explains that MSG is deceptively represented as a “natural” additive on many containers and in some natural-food departments as well.
“Anything that tastes good … all of the fast foods, flavored chips, most of the condiments, most salad dressings, most processed lunch meats, most sausages, soups off the grocery shelf,” she says, are likely to contain MSG.
2. Seasonings and basic food staples contain MSG. Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D., co-director and founder of the Truth in Labeling Campaign (TLC), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote “full and clear labeling” of all food, says that the unwary consumer is quite vulnerable to the unintended ingestion of MSG. In doing research for a TLC report, Samuels found that the glutamate and food-additive industry is adept at disguising the presence of MSG in foods.
“Bouillon, stock, broth, malt flavoring, barley malt, seasonings, carrageenan, soy sauce, soy protein, whey protein and anything enzyme-modified,” she writes, “always contain MSG.”
3. MSG by any other name is just the same. Samuels notes that the FDA has demonstrated a curious relaxation of its usual standards for product labeling. “With some exceptions,” she writes, “the FDA requires that ingredients – MSG-containing ingredients included – must be called by their common or usual names.” The FDA uses the term “monosodium glutamate” for ingredients that are a 99 percent pure combination of glutamic acid and sodium.
However, most of the MSG-containing foods that cause MSG syndrome are not 99 percent pure and are allowed to be labeled obscurely: “monopotassium glutamate,” “autolyzed yeast,” “hydrolyzed soy protein” and “sodium caseinate” are examples of ingredients that always contain MSG.
4. The FDA won’t tighten its standards. In 1994 TLC attempted through a petition to pressure the FDA “to require that processed free-glutamic acid be clearly labeled when used in food.”
That petition – and a subsequent lawsuit – were not successful. The court ruled that the FDA, being a food-industry expert, did not have to disclose the “basis” of its conclusion that current labeling standards adequately protected the public.
What the future may hold for the players in the MSG debate
MSG proponents are currently facing a new battle – one with potentially far-reaching legal repercussions. In a recent, well- publicized legal case, a California man, Mr. Livingston, initially lost a suit that was recently reversed on appeal and set for retrial. Livingston’s complaint is against a restaurant that had served him a vegetable soup that had been made with a beef base containing MSG. After consuming it, he suffered an asthma attack and cardiac arrest.
“The restaurant had a ‘duty to warn’ this man of the dangers of the MSG content of the food,” says attorney Howard Goldstein, who represented Livingston and who likens the case to the current tobacco industry lawsuits. Goldstein says he is more aware of the dangers of MSG as a result of his involvement with this case. A member of his own family suffered from MSG sensitivity.
“At a time when we were eating a lot of foods containing MSG,” he says, “during the meal she would start having vision changes, cramping and asthma. At least once or twice a year for a dozen or so years we would be making emergency room visits, usually on the Friday or Saturday night after eating out, to get to respiratory therapy.” Goldstein says that after getting involved in the Livingston case and learning to eliminate MSG from the family diet, the trips to the emergency room have not occurred for five years. But until relief arrives, consumers must navigate on their own.
Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills by Russell L Blaylock, M.D.
Health and Nutrition Secrets that Can Save Your Life
by Dr. Russell Blaylock
Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life covers some of the hottest topics in health and nutrition: heavy metal toxicity the food additive controversy. Health and Nutrition Secrets also presents the latest information on strokes and heart attacks, diabetes, protecting the digestive system, and the best ways to keep the immune system young and powerful. Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon, combines many years of medical practice with study of thousands of research studies to create this monumental book.
Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills
Book Description (from the publisher)
Nutrasweet (Aspartame) has been scientifically linked to brain tumors, brain cell damage and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. According to author Russell Blaylock, MD, a practicing, board-certified neurosurgeon, we are witnessing enormous damage to the brain and nervous system due to the ever-increasing amount of Nutrasweet and other excitotoxic subtances added to our foods. With detailed accuracy citing well over five hundred scientific studies, Neurosurgeon Blaylock explores the “must-know” dangers of these substances being added indiscriminately to our food supply.
Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” and his research team used the book Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, as one of their sources to report on the increasing evidence of a brain tumor connection. Their December 29, 1996, program didn’t, however, delve into the enormous epidemic of illness caused by the increasing use of these substances.
Dr. Blaylock’s book exposes it all in detail-from the questionable history of “approvals” in the 1970s and the 1980s to the increasing body of evidence showing serious brain effects, government inaction, and industry propaganda and cover-up. The use of aspartame, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and monosodium glutamate in prepared foods and beverages continues to increase on a yearly basis. Dr. Blaylock clearly demonstrates that the neurotoxic potential of excitotoxins such as MSG and aspartame (NUTRASWEET ) is so overwhelming that it can no longer be ignored.
Table of Contents:
A Crash Course in How the Brain Works – Very Special Amino Acids – What Is an Amino Acid? – Exciting Cells to Death – Effect of Excitotoxins on the Developing Brain – Creeping Death: The Neurodegenerative Diseases – Alzheimer’s Disease: A Classic Case of Excitotoxin Damage – Seizures – Headaches – Brain Injury – Strokes: Ischemia – Anoxia – Hypoglycemia – AIDS Dementia – Aspartame, Brain Tumors and the FDA So what are “excitotoxins”? Basically, they are a group of compounds that can cause special neurons within the nervous system to become overexcited to the point that these cells will die. That’s right, they are excited to death.
Excitotoxins include such things as monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartate (a main ingredient in NutraSweet), L-cysteine (found in hydrolyzed vegetable protein) and related compounds. What makes this all the more intriguing is that “excitotoxins” appear to play a key role in degenerative nervous system diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and many others.
But the story doesn’t stop there. It appears that an imbalance of these excitotoxins during critical periods of brain development can result in an abnormal formation of brain pathways; that is, a “miswiring of the brain.” This may lead to serious disorders such as behavioral problems (hyperactivity, aggression, attention deficit disorders, learning disorders, poor learning ability, and ADD)-and a lifetime of endocrine problems such as menstrual difficulties, infertility, and premature puberty. One of the earliest observations seen in animals exposed to large doses of MSG was gross obesity. Some neuroscientists have voiced concern that America’s explosion of childhood obesity may be related to excitotoxins in food.
Manipulating The Language (and the Data)
The defenders of ‘glutamate safety’ have gone through an evolving litany of defenses. First, they denied that brain lesions could result from any dose of glutamate. Then, when the evidence became overwhelming, they claimed that these lesions only occurred when MSG was injected and not ingested. When this was disproved, they denied that human blood levels could reach concentrations that would be toxic to the brain. When this was shown not to be true, even by one of their own defenders, they simply stated, “So what? It still cannot enter the brain because of the blood brain barrier.”
(This is a special “gatekeeper” that normally excludes toxic chemicals from entering the brain from the blood.) But, as even shown by the government-sponsored FASEB report, the brain has several vital areas that have no barrier. (For example, the hypothalamus.) And it was shown that glutamate can pass into protected areas of the brain by seeping through the unprotected areas. Also, there are many medical conditions that cause the barrier to fail, such as hypertension, diabetes, brain tumors, brain trauma, heat stroke, vascular stroke, multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerate diseases, and with some medications. All of these people would be at great risk.
Brain Damage, Not An “Allergic” Reaction
I often hear people say, “But I’m not sensitive to MSG. Chinese food doesn’t bother me.” This is a dangerous mistake. The destructive effects of MSG and related compounds is not an allergic reaction, it is a toxic reaction that occurs in virtually everyone. Some are more sensitive to these destructive effects than others, but everyone is affected to some degree. The MSG-symptom complex differs from the excitoxic reaction. The former is quite obvious to the person (headaches, pressure in the chest, heart palpitations, numbness in the arms and face, etc.), while the latter may remain clinically silent for many years.
What makes “excitotoxins” so dangerous is the subtle way in which they damage the nervous system. Often the damage goes on for years, even decades, before clinically recognizable disease is evident. For example, when an unborn child is exposed to MSG in the mother’s diet, behavioral and learning difficulties may not become evident until the child starts school. Endocrine problems may not surface until puberty or when the person is trying to start a family. Degenerative brain diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease may take even longer. It is the slow, unrelenting destruction of brain cells-secondary to exposure to food-born excitotoxins-that may lead to either the precipitation of these diseases or their aggravation.
So Why Doesn’t The FDA Come Out And Say MSG Is Dangerous?
For one thing, there appears to be a revolving door between the FDA and the manufacturers of and companies that use MSG. We often see that directors of the FDA on review panels suddenly appear some time later either working for the industry or with firms that support the industry. In the FASEB report, the FDA gleaned the wording that it wanted and packaged it so that it would say exactly what they wanted. For example, they reported that the study found no link between ingested MSG and neurodegenerative diseases. But in truth, what the report said was that no studies have been done to even see if there is a link. That is, no one is looking at these critical questions.
Second, the FASEB investigators took the industry’s studies on daily intakes of MSG at face value. This is ludicrous. Why won’t the food processors release the data on how much MSG and other excitotoxic additives they add to each food item? What is interesting is that the FASEB study did say that they did consider concentration less than three grams a day as safe, which would imply that more than that is definitely dangerous. But even this is questionable.
Can Nutrasweet Cause Brain Tumors?
Can NutraSweet cause brain tumors, uterine and ovarian cancer?
Research from its own laboratories says it can. In fact, that was why it was first rejected by the FDA for human consumption. This study found that, in all concentrations examined, NutraSweet produced a very high incidence of brain tumors. (The high dose NutraSweet caused a 47x increase in brain tumors over control animals.) Also found were uterine and ovarian tumors. The number of tumors produced seemed to be dose related. That is, the more NutraSweet consumed, the more likely tumors would develop. It appears that it is a breakdown product of NutraSweet called diketopiperizine (DKP) that is causing the tumors.
Interestingly, with the passage of time more and more NutraSweet breaks down into DKP. This is why the soft drink companies have started to date diet colas. Heating NutraSweet also speeds up this process. This is why using NutraSweet in hot beverages and for cooking is especially hazardous. There has been an enormous increase in the number of brain tumors reported over the last decade. No other explanation has been given for this incredible explosion of brain tumors. If the early experiments linking NutraSweet with brain tumors is confirmed, we should all be outraged, both at the industry and at the FDA, our federal watch dog.
List Of Hidden Sources Of MSG
As discussed previously, the glutamate manufacturers and the processed food industries are always on a quest to disguise MSG added to food. Below is a partial fist of the most common names for disguised MSG. Remember also that the powerful excitotoxins aspartate and L-cysteine are frequently added to foods and according to FDA rules require no labeling at all.
Additives that always contain MSG:
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
- Hydrolyzed Protein
- Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
- Plant Protein Extract
- Sodium Caseinate
- Calcium Caseinate
- Yeast Extract
- Textured Protein
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Additives that frequently contain MSG:
- Malt extract
- Malt Flavoring
- Natural Flavoring
- Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring
Additives that may contain MSG or excitotoxins:
- Soy Protein Concentrate
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Whey Protein Concentrate
Protease enzymes of various sources can release excitotoxin amino acids from food proteins.
Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills by Russell L Blaylock, M.D.