monosodium glutamate MSGMSG – Monosodium Glutamate

In October, 2008, General Mills announced plans to remove added monosodium glutamate, MSG, from all 80 of its Progresso soups. Its major competitor, Campbell Soups, began airing commercials promoting the absence of MSG from its soups. It’s a new battle in the soup wars, and it reflects on-going consumer concerns about this common flavor enhancer and preservative.


Critics, by the way, point out the soup companies are using “yeast extract” instead of MSG. And what’s found in yeast extract? MSG.


It’s tough for food manufacturers to give up MSG because it makes food taste sooooo good.


Cooks around the world remain dedicated to MSG, even though they may not know it by that name. As hydrolyzed soy protein or autolyzed yeast, it adds flavor to the canned chicken broth, to packs of onion soup mix, to cheese Goldfish crackers and low-fat yogurts. In regions of the world where meat and meaty flavors have been out of reach for most cooks, MSG has long filled the gap because meat and MSG work beautifully together. Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the fallback rub for pork shoulder or flank steak is Goya Sazón: MSG and salt, cut with garlic, cumin and annatto. Accent, which is largely MSG, was introduced in 1947 and quickly became a staple for American home cooks.


If you have ever wondered what makes spicy tuna rolls so much tastier than plain California rolls, the MSG in it is likely why.


MSG is made by fermenting starch, corn, sugar beets, molasses, or sugar cane to free naturally occurring glutamate. Sodium salts of glutamate are then created that can be used to make foods more intensely flavorful. Glutamate itself is a naturally occurring amino acid found in many protein-rich foods, including cheese, milk, meat, walnuts, and mushrooms. Broccoli is naturally rich in MSG. So are mushrooms and parmesan cheese. This amino acid is also produced by the body and used in metabolism. MSG is also one of the 20 amino acids contained in our bodies. Without MSG, we would be very different creatures, or not exist at all.


But Mother Nature never reckoned that we would add so much processed free glutamic acid to our foods.


In the late 1960s, people began connecting their “Chinese restaurant headache” with having eaten food with MSG. The additive was blamed for problems ranging from brain lesions, Parkinson’s, headaches, flushing, and heart palpitations. In 1978, MSG was supposed to have been removed from baby food after the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Academy of Sciences expressed concerns.


An international research review in 1987 by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concluded MSG was safe. In 1995 the FDA issued a large-scale review by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, and the conclusion was that glutamates are not a health risk for the vast majority of consumers.


“There was simply no clinical evidence for any of (the fears),” said Marion Nestle, author and professor of nutrition at New York University.


Click to view the 60 Minutes segment

Exciting Brain Cells to Death


But many do not agree. Many believe, and have non-industry sponsored studies to back it up, that MSG is a slow poison.


MSG is blamed for a range of serious neurological and physiological disorders. Studies have identified both MSG and aspartame as excitotoxins, substances that overstimulate the neurotransmitters to the point of cell damage.


Dr. Russell Blaylock, author and international expert on the subject of excitotoxins explains:
Dr. Russell Blaylock

“Excitotoxins have been found to dramatically promote cancer growth and metastasis. In fact, one aspartame researcher noticed that, when cancer cells were exposed to aspartame, they became more mobile, and you see the same effect with MSG. When you increase the glutamate level, cancer just grows like wildfire, and then when you block glutamate, it dramatically slows the growth of the cancer.

“We discovered that outside of the brain, there are numerous glutamate receptors in all organs and tissues. The entire GI tract, from the esophagus to the colon, has numerous glutamate receptors. The entire electrical conducting system of a heart is replete with all sorts of glutamate receptors. The lungs, the ovaries, all the reproductive systems and sperm itself, adrenal glands, bones and even calcification are all controlled by glutamate receptors. They act and operate exactly like the glutamate receptors in the brain. So, when you’re consuming MSG, the level of glutamate in the blood can rise as high as 20-fold. You get very high glutamate levels in the blood after eating a meal containing MSG. You’re stimulating all of the glutamate receptors. That’s why some people get explosive diarrhea, because it stimulates the receptors in the esophagus and small bowel. Others may develop irritable bowel, or if they have irritable bowel, it makes it a lot worse. If they have reflux, it makes that a lot worse. The thing about the cardiac conduction system glutamate receptors is this may explain the rise in sudden cardiac death.

“(Baby food manufacturers) said they would (remove MSG), but they didn’t. What they did is take out pure MSG and substitute it with hydrolyzed protein and caseinate. If you look at most toddler foods, they all have caseinate hydrolyzed protein broth, a significant source of glutamate. We’re destroying the nervous systems of these babies.

“Soybeans, naturally, have one of the highest glutamate levels of any of the plant products. When you hydrolyze it, you release the glutamate, in the soy protein isolates. The glutamate levels are higher than a lot of what you’ll find in MSG products, yet the vegetarians are just eating it like it’s the healthiest thing in the world. There was a 25-year study done, which looked at people who consumed the most soy products, and they followed them for 25 years and did serial CT scans. They found out that the people who consumed the most soybean products had the greatest incidence of dementia and brain atrophy.”[1]


Dr. Blaylock also understands how excitotoxins fuel chronic inflammation, the underlying mechanism of most chronic diseases:


“When you are eating a lot of glutamate, it makes pesticides more neurotoxic, it makes mercury more neurotoxic, so you are magnifying the toxicity of every environmental toxin by eating these foods.

“And this is what moms need to hear: early exposure alters the genetic activation of the inflammatory process. The glutamate is long gone, but it turned on a free-radical-generating process that lasts for a long period of time. A recent study showed that if you fed an animal MSG early in life for about six doses, when it reached adolescence, these animals were still generating high levels of free radicals in the walls of their arteries at an age equivalent in humans to ages twenty and twenty-four. This explains why we are seeing ‘adult’ diseases in young people.”[1]


It has been suggested that the growing incidence of autism may be related to the processed free glutamic acid, MSG, found in vaccines. MSG is used in some vaccines as a stabilizer. Some vaccines include thimerosal, a preservative that contains mercury. Both mercury and MSG are suspected of being causative factors in autism, and, they may be interactive. A 2000 study concluded that:


“In the absence of glutamate, neurons are unaffected by acute exposure to mercury, suggesting that neuronal dysfunction is secondary to disturbances in astrocytes (Brookes, 1992). Co-application of nontoxic concentrations of MeHg [methyl mercury] and glutamate leads to the typical appearance of neuronal lesions associated with excitotoxic stimulation (Matyja and Albrecht, 1993).”[2]


Jack L. Samuels, President of the “Truth in Labeling Campaign,” is one of the advocates against MSG. He says it is as if MSG finds the weak link in one’s body:


“It appears that once people experience an adverse reaction from MSG, they are MSG-sensitive from that point forward. Furthermore, it appears that once people become MSG-sensitive, their tolerance for MSG becomes less and less over time. It is almost as if overexposure to MSG destroys some protective mechanism in the body. Clearly, as the level of MSG increases in our food supply, more and more people are becoming MSG sensitive.

“Glutamic acid is associated with the recent increases in neurodegenerative disease. It has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Scerosis (ALS), Multiple Sclerosis, and Huntington’s Disease. Research links MSG to migraine headaches, heart irregularities, seizures, asthma, sudden death of young athletes, ADD, ADHD, and more. There appears to be no question that MSG is the main contributor to the obesity epidemic, primarily due to the brain damage that MSG causes, and there is growing evidence that it is the probable cause for the diabetes epidemic, and the high incidence of autism. A recent study by He et al. also confirms that daily use of MSG will lead to weight gain.

“MSG, in my opinion, is the cause of the epidemic of irritable bowel syndrome, and before long, will be shown to be directly related to neurodegenerative diseases.”[3]


As Mr. Samuels points out, the FDA seems hypocritical in regards to MSG. In one room, the FDA is approving glutamate blocking drugs, while down the hall, another arm of the same agency “is busy approving food ingredients that contain MSG, and disregarding the mislabeling of MSG on many products.”


Drugs to Block Glutamate versus Not Eating It


The glutamate blocking drug, Namenda, is actively being used to treat moderate to severe cases of Alzheimer’s Disease. Glutamate plays a key role in memory and learning, but excess glutamate can lead to the disruption of nerve cell communication or nerve cell death. So the drug attempts to block the brain’s reception of glutamate.


There is another glutamate blocking drug, Rilouzole (Rilutek), being used for ALS and Huntington’s Disease. A glutamate blocking drug will be introduced in the relatively near future for treatment of Schizophrenia. These drugs all come with side effects.


MSG is also blamed, in part, for the obesity epidemic. In 1969, John W. Olney, M.D. published a study in which he found that monosodium glutamate, given to mice, resulted in obesity and other neuroendocrine disorders due to lesions in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.[4] In studies around the world, scientists create obese mice and rats to use in diet or diabetes test studies. They inject them subcutaneously (under the skin) with 4 mg of MSG per gram of body weight every other day from the first day they are born until they are two weeks old. The MSG triples the amount of insulin the pancreas creates, causing rats to become obese. Want a fun Google exercise? Go to the National Library of Medicine at and type in the words ‘MSG Obese.’ Read a few of the 150 or so medical studies that appear.


MSG shows up in:Natural flavorings
Bouillon cubes
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
Autolyzed Plant Protein
Sodium Caseinate
Calcium Caseinate
Textured Protein
Yeast Extract
Autolyzed Yeast
Vegetable Protein Extract

MSG is simply hiding in plain sight. It thrives in the industrial food world, where it is known affectionately to scientists as E621. According to USDA guidelines, “labeling is required when MSG is added as a direct ingredient.” But other glutamates – the hydrolyzed proteins, the autolyzed yeasts and the protein concentrates, which the USDA acknowledges are related to MSG – must be identified under their own names.


Alternatively, they may also be included under umbrella terms, like vegetable broth or chicken broth. Thus, these ingredients are now routinely found in products like canned tuna, canned soup (vegetable broth usually contains hydrolyzed soy protein), low-fat yogurts and ice creams, chips, and virtually everything ranch-flavored or cheese-flavored.


No large-scale clinical research has been done since the FDA’s 1995 review.


[1] Interview September 27, 2006, with Mike Adams of Natural News. Go to the source at

[2] Aschner et al. Methylmercury alters glutamate transport in astrocytes. Neurochem Int. Aug-Sep, 2000; 37(2-3):199-206.

[3] Jack Samuels, MSG’s EFFECT ON NEUROLOGICAL FUNCTION, Paper presented at the Weston A. Price Annual Convention, San Francisco, California November 8, 2008

[4] Olney JW. Brain Lesions, Obesity, and Other Disturbances in Mice Treated With Monosodium Glutamate. Science, 1969, 164: 719-21.

MSG – Monosodium Glutamate
Tagged on:     

5 thoughts on “MSG – Monosodium Glutamate

  • Pingback: Could You Please "Pass" Me the Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)? : Rena's Blog **Under Construction**

  • Pingback: Monosodium GlutamateDC Healthy Bites

  • January 22, 2014 at 5:50 am

    MSG and all of these other forms of MSG cause me to have seizures, as does Aspartame. Since I have to read all food labels, it is amazing how much these other forms of MSG are in most of our foods. As a “salt substitute” I can see that it would be in frozen prepared foods, spice rubs, salad dressing, gravy mix, etc. but it is also being put into foods that are considered healthy such as most of the vegetarian products, cereals (Kashi brand), dairy products and bread. I have found that I am safest to buy the fresh ingredients and make the food myself (thankfully I like to cook). The only “fast food” I can eat is pizza. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is more healthy, but it is inconvenient when dining out or at a friend’s house. I wrote to a leader in Alzheimer’s research, a physician, to discuss my theory of a connection between so much dementia in our society and all of this free glutamate in foods. My response, which I don’t agree with, was that this free glutamate does not reach the brain and that it goes out through the intestines. I personally know this is not true because why then would I have seizures? It definitely crosses the blood brain barrier. Also, why then would drugs for Alzheimer’s like Namenda, which works on glutamate, help people with the disease if it isn’t reaching the brain? I think there needs to be more regulation of this dangerous food additive and I strongly believe this is the cause of the rise of so many neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. The majority of people are simply unaware of this issue.

  • January 15, 2015 at 8:58 am

    I also am msg sensitive…as soon as I eat a food with this in, I develop a headache, anxiety and shortly after have diarrhea! I have fibromaylia and not sure if this makes me more sensitive to msg, but I feel too that I am becoming more sensitive to it as times goes by.

  • June 6, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Actually MSG is a free glutamate. I think categorizing all free glutamate just as MSG is confusing. It’s not that it’s MSG, it’s that it is a free glutamate. Glutamate are in many foods naturally occurring. We need them. The difference between these and free glutamres is the “free” part. The glutamate is freed of protein, which then makes it a free glutamate. For those who are sensitive, it enters the blood stream faster. This is a great article that sums it up.
    People need to know that just looking out for “MSG” may not totally affect their symptoms.


Leave a Reply

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