What is MSG?
Mono sodium glutamate is a sodium salt of glutamic acid and it is a flavour enhancer that is widely used in the food industry. At the time of its discovery, it was thought to be perfectly safe, since it was a natural substance (an amino acid). But by the end of the 1960s, research data began to appear demonstrating the dangers of MSG as a food additive.
Excitotoxins: The taste that kills by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., page 15.
For thousands of years Japanese cooks have added a special ingredient to their recipes to magnify the desired taste of foods. This ingredient was made from a seaweed known as “sea tangle” or Kombu. In 1909 a Japanese scientist isolated the active ingredient responsible for the taste-enhancing properties. The discovery of the monosodium glutamate, or MSG started a revolution in the food industry that would eventually become a multi-billion dollar industry.
In Bad Taste: The MSG syndrome by George R. Schwartz, M.D., page 1.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are 21 different amino acids and one of the most common ways to classify them is as essential and non-essential amino acids.
Essential Amino Acids
Non-Essential Amino Acids
More about glutamic acid
By 1973 a group of neuroscientists demonstrated that glutamate was indeed a neurotransmitter. Then glutamate receptors were discovered in specific parts of the brain. The transmitter molecule attaches to a receptor on the membrane of the nerve fiber (dendrite) and causes the molecule in the membrane to undergo a change in shape. This in turn opens a microscopic hole in the membrane. When this pore opens, sodium and/or calcium pour inside the axon and trigger the cell to fire thereby transmitting a signal down its axon fiber. This process takes place very rapidly, in a fraction of a second.
The receptor and its neurotransmitter can be thought of as a lock and key. The receptor on the membrane is the lock that requires a specific key to be opened. The transmitter is the key. This makes the whole process very specific, so that the lock cannot be opened by just any key.
Excitotoxins: The taste that kills by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., pages 47-48
So what’s the deal with MSG?
Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that is found normally in the brain and spinal cord. It is one of the most common neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, and when its concentration rises above a critical level it can become a deadly toxin (an excitotoxin) to the neurons containing glutamate receptors. Excessive glutamate will not only kill the neurons with the receptors for glutamate but it will also kill any neurons that happen to be connected to it, even if that neuron uses another type of receptor. Glutamate can cause neurons to become extremely excited and, if given in large enough doses, it can cause these cells to degenerate and die.
The brain has a system for controlling the levels of glutamate. It consists of a special pumping system that transfers the excess glutamate back into surrounding glial cells. Glial cells surround the neurons and supply them with energy. Normally, the glutamate clearing system is very efficient but it requires an enormous amount of cellular energy for its operation. When energy runs out the protective pumps begin to fail and glutamate begins to accumulate in the area around the neuron. If the energy is not restored the neurons, in essence, will burn up – they are literally excited to death.
Excitotoxins: The taste that kills by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., pages 58-60
Short term side effects
Most commonly reported symptoms include headaches and tightness around the face. Less common ones are dizziness, diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps while blurry vision and seeing lights or colours is rare.
In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome by George R. Schwartz, M.D., page13
Long term side effects
Scientific evidence shows that the areas of the brain affected in Alzheimer’s disease are primarily neurons having glutamate receptors. Further investigation has also demonstrated that exposure to huge doses of MSG causes Alzheimer’s disease and even low doses of MSG results in damage to neurons. MSG is also linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease.
Excitotoxins: The taste that kills by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., pages 126-129 and 165-166
MSG in food labels
MSG is normally labelled under “flavour enhancer” with any of the following E-numbers:
- E620 – Glutamic acid
- E621 – Monosodium glutamate
- E622 – Monopotassium glutamate
- E623 – Calcium diglutamate
- E624 – Monoammonium glutamate
- E625 – Magnesium diglutamate
“Natural flavouring” may contain anywhere from 20 to 60% MSG
“Hydrolysed vegetable protein” or “hydrolysed plant protein” may contain up to 40% MSG10.
Other names include yeast extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, natural protein and Kombu extract.
Excitotoxins: The taste that kills by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., page 18 & page 55