If the ‘dose makes the poison’ there’s more than enough MSG and MSG-aliases in processed food to cause brain damage as well as serious observable reactions

There’s more than enough excitotoxic glutamic acid (a.k.a. free glutamate) in processed foods to create the excesses needed to cause brain damage, obesity, reproductive dysfunction, migraine headache, heart irregularities, irritable bowel, nausea and vomiting, asthma, seizures and more. In fact, excitotoxic glutamate has been known to trigger all the reactions listed as side effects of prescription drugs.

It hasn’t always been that way.

Prior to 1957, free glutamate available to people in the U.S. came largely from use of a product called Accent, which is pure MSG marketed as a flavor enhancer. In 1957, however, Ajinomoto’s method of glutamate production changed from extraction from a protein source (a slow and costly method), to a technique of bacterial fermentation wherein carefully selected genetically modified bacteria secreted glutamate through their cell walls — which enabled virtually unlimited production of MSG, allowing Ajinomoto to market its product aggressively.

It wasn’t long before Big Food discovered that increased profits could be generated by liberally using flavor enhancers (which all contain free glutamate) in every processed food product imaginable. And over the next two decades, the marketplace became flooded with manufactured/processed free-glutamate added to processed foods in ingredients such as hydrolyzed proteins, yeast extracts, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, and MSG.

Today, more free glutamate than ever before will be found in ingredients used in processed and ultra-processed foods, snacks, and protein-fortified foods, protein drinks and shakes, and protein bars. And hydrolyzed proteins such as pea protein powder and mung bean protein isolate contain all three excitotoxic (brain-damaging) amino acids: aspartic acid (as in aspartame) and L-cysteine (used in dough conditioners), as well as glutamic acid. On top of that, excitotoxins marketed as “protein” sources have become increasingly available and extremely popular.

Recently we have seen excitotoxic amino acids in products such as Real Egg (mung bean protein isolate, the enzyme transglutaminase, and natural flavors), the Impossible Burger (textured wheat protein, potato protein, natural flavors, yeast extract, and soy protein isolate), Beyond Meat Beast Burger (pea protein isolate, natural flavoring, yeast extract, and maltodextrin), and the Lightlife Burger (water, pea protein, expeller pressed canola oil, modified corn starch, modified cellulose, yeast extract, virgin coconut oil, sea salt, natural flavor, beet powder (color), ascorbic acid (to promote color retention), onion extract, onion powder garlic powder) as well as excitotoxins added to an increasing array of ultra-processed foods. Most ultra-processed foods are made exclusively of chemicals and poor-quality ingredients to which glutamate-containing flavor enhancers have been added.

Prior to the time that Ajinomoto reformulated its method of MSG production (now over 60 years ago), accumulating excesses of glutamate through food sufficient to turn it excitotoxic would have been nearly impossible. But in the decades that followed Ajinomoto’s reformulation of MSG, obesity and infertility escalated to epidemic proportions.

The names of ingredients that contain manufactured free glutamate (MfG) can be found at this link.

If MSG was so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?

Listen up Jeffrey Steingarten. Twenty-four years ago you were one of a handful of food writers coming to the defense of the safety of MSG.  It was the “in” thing to do.  And your “If MSG was so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?”  was so well written and so provocative, it’s still referred to today.

It’s been 24 years since you wrote those words for Vogue Magazine. It’s long been obvious to those of us who can differentiate fact (produced by honest scientists) from glutamate industry rigged research and paid-for-propaganda, that the defining component of MSG is its brain damaging excitotoxic free glutamate.  To be brain-damaging, there has to be more glutamate floating free in the body than is used for normal body functions.  And it wasn’t until 1957 that Ajinomoto began mass-producing free glutamate in amounts needed to produce brain damage.  Before 1957, there wasn’t enough free glutamate to cause brain damage.

To be brain damaging, large quantities of free glutamate have to be floating free in the body. Before 1957, there wasn’t enough free glutamate available in processed foods and drinks to cause brain damage.

It’s a mouthful to say, and not easy to understand, but prior to 1957, the amino acid known as glutamic acid (or glutamate) would only have been found in the healthy human body under well-defined and tightly controlled circumstance — when all glutamate was used to support normal healthy functions.

That’s how it was.  That’s how it had always been.  But in 1957, the major U.S. producer of MSG began mass-producing MSG in the U.S. using genetically modified bacteria that would secrete free glutamate through their cell walls. That was followed by aggressive marketing.

In The Perfect Poison there’s a section that describes the thought process that went into becoming certain that the placebos used in the Glutes double-blind studies of the safety of MSG were not really placebos, but were concoctions that would cause reactions identical to reactions caused by MSG test material.

That’s the kind of thinking that I found myself doing when I happened upon a market report published in the Taiwan News written by Report Ocean, a renowned market research firm that had recently released an insightful report focusing on the MSG market in China.  What caught my eye was this simple statement, Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a manufactured (emphasis added) flavor enhancer that has a place with the class of mixtures on the whole known as glutamates.”  And I found myself intrigued more by words left unsaid than by anything else, because in the United States with that simple statement, there would have been an extensive barrage of “MSG is safe” propaganda, with the repeated assertion that MSG is natural or naturally occurring.

In “The curious history of MSG in China, and a tour of an MSG Factory,” Christopher St. Cavish tells the reader that in China, there is no such thing as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, which reinforced my growing suspicion that the MSG produced in the U.S. and MSG produced in China are actually different things — an idea reinforced by St. Cavish’s statement, “long fascinated by the contrast between their cultural baggage and supposed medical ill-effects in the U.S. and their unconditional acceptance in Asia. In China, which consumes 55% of the world’s MSG, there is no such thing as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”  Moreover, St. Cavish makes no mention of adverse reactions following ingestion of MSG; he repeatedly asserts that all MSG is exactly the same thing; and he describes how Chinese MSG is made, with no mention of bacteria that excrete glutamate through their cell walls.

I have studied the few English language papers I could find relevant to the procedures used outside of the United States for producing monosodium glutamate prior to 1957 and have come to the conclusion that the monosodium glutamate manufactured in the United States after 1957 contained excitotoxic free glutamate complete with its impurities while monosodium glutamate manufactured elsewhere did not.

So, there it is Mr. Steingarten.  It was the MSG produced in the United States (not in Asia) after mass production of MSG was introduced in 1957 that caused headaches, other adverse reactions, brain damage and all the various abnormalities of the nervous system like obesity, infertility, behavior disorders and neurodegenerative disease. And it still does.

As consumers learn more about the unavoidable dangers of eating MSG, the ‘MSG-is-safe’ story changes

They’ve changed their story again.  Since so many consumers have realized that MSG causes adverse reactions, manufacturers have been forced to give up on claiming that MSG is safe to eat.  The new story is that MSG is safe to eat when consumed in “normal concentrations.”  And it’s not safe for everyone.  Maybe it’s not safe for you, the new story says, but it has no effect on the overwhelming majority of people.

As is true of all “MSG-is-safe” propaganda, only vague, safe-sounding terms are used.  Today in the United States, “normal concentrations” would be the massive amounts contained in ultra-processed food.  All ultra-processed food is loaded with toxic free glutamate, which consumers refer to as MSG.  And “the majority of people” is left conveniently undefined.

Check it out.  Next time you come across something that says that MSG is safe, look for a smattering of the Glutes signature words and phrases: “controversial,” “bad rap,” “xenophobia,” “racist,” “racism,” “a small subset of people,” “anecdotal reports,” “inadequate evidence,” “much-maligned,” “debunked,” “a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve.”

What change is coming next?  It’s actually an idea that the FDA has been carefully developing for a number of years: use MSG in place of salt (but be sure not to mention the excitotoxic – brain damaging – glutamate in MSG.)

What a way to distract and confuse from the fact that free glutamate (the active component in MSG) is a toxic ingredient.

It appears that MSG made in China does not cause adverse reactions

The story told about monosodium glutamate (MSG) appears to differ according to who is telling it.  In the United States the story is about MSG safety.  It describes MSG as both occurring naturally in food and being naturally made, similar to yogurt, vinegar and wine.  And it contains glutamate that is identical to the glutamate in the human body.

The U.S. version goes on to explain that MSG has been used for over a century without adverse reactions. That it has been very well researched and found to be safe.

Not included in the story is the fact that since 1957, MSG manufactured and sold in the U.S. has been produced by genetically modified bacteria that secrete MSG though their cell walls (1)

And it is only since that time that questions about the safety of MSG have been raised.

In China, the story told about MSG is quite different.

In “The curious history of MSG in China, and a tour of an MSG Factory,” Christopher St. Cavish sets right off telling the reader that in China, there is no such thing as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, which immediately caused me to wonder if the MSG produced in the U.S. and the MSG produced in China were actually different things. 

That idea was reinforced by St. Cavish’s statement, “I am both a proponent and detractor of MSG’s odorless, flavorless crystals, long fascinated by the contrast between their cultural baggage and supposed medical ill-effects in the US and their unconditional acceptance in Asia. If I, and other consumers and chefs, have a case against MSG, it is that it is a shortcut for chefs, who are able to skimp on the quality of ingredients and then use MSG to boost their flavor.”

The balance of St. Cavish’s article focuses on what he calls the “31 different types of MSG, from beef-flavored MSG to halal MSG, invented after a massive scandal in Indonesia in 2001 that revealed the local manufacturer was using pork enzymes in the production process.”  Again, St. Cavish emphasized the fact that “all MSG is the exact same thing. To the extent there are ‘brands’, it has to do with the size of the crystals and whether or not it’s been mixed with a flavoring, from regular table salt to dried mushrooms. But the MSG itself is identical. It starts off as a starch: depending on prices and geography, that might be beets, wheat, sugarcane, corn or cassava. Bacteria are added, which eat the starch and excrete glutamic acid. The bacteria are then killed, leaving the glutamic acid, which is isolated, purified and then dried into crystals, which are sorted by size. Ta-da. MSG! 95% of the stuff is made in China, where ingredients and labor are cheap.” 

The fact that MSG has been the subject of numerous articles written prior to 1957 without mention of adverse effects caused by MSG lends credence to the theory that adverse effects following ingestion of MSG were unknown prior to 1957, the date that use of genetically modified bacteria began. Add to that the fact that reports of adverse effects following ingestion of MSG only began to surface after the use of genetically modified bacteria to secrete glutamic acid commenced.


(1) (Leung A, Foster S. Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs, and cosmetics. New York: Wiley, 1996.).   

Jordan Hand’s A Short History of MSG Good Science, Bad Science, and Taste Cultures is an excellent source of information.  (Jordan Sand, “A Short History of MSG: Good Science, Bad Science, and Taste Cultures,” Gastronomica 5:4 (Fall, 2005): 38-49.)

Christopher St. Cavishis an American food writer, based in Shanghai since 2005. 

Everything you need to know about glutamate before your next trip to the supermarket

Glutamic acid (glutamate) is a building block of protein. When present in protein or released from protein in a regulated fashion, glutamate is vital to normal body function. It is the major neurotransmitter in the human body, carrying nerve impulses from glutamate stimuli to glutamate receptors throughout the body. Yet when present outside of protein in amounts that exceed what the healthy human body was designed to accommodate (when present in excess), glutamate takes on excitotoxic properties, becoming an excitotoxic neurotransmitter, firing repeatedly, damaging targeted glutamate-receptors and/or causing neuronal and non-neuronal death by over exciting glutamate receptors until their cells die.

Excitotoxicity of L-glutamic acid (glutamate) was first demonstrated in 1969. On April 3, 2019, a PubMed search for “glutamate” produced 157,021 references. Topics being researched included, but were not limited to, glutamate receptors, transport, excitotoxicity, release, transporter, brain, synthesis, monosodium glutamate, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, ALS, autism, schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), epilepsy, ischemic stroke, seizures, Huntington’s disease, addiction, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism.

Much, if not all of that research dealt with excitotoxicity caused by glutamate from endogenous1 sources. The contribution of glutamate from exogenous2 sources to endogenous glutamate pools through which excitotoxicity would be triggered, seems never to have been considered.

Overlooked also, is a wealth of knowledge that could be gleaned from the histories of humans who have suffered brain damage, endocrine disorders, and observable adverse reactions following intake of excitotoxic glutamate from exogenous sources.

With the following we present an overview of what we know, or think we know, about the function of glutamate in persons who have experienced reactions to it.  It is our hope that insights generated by this information may be used by researchers probing the mechanisms of glutamate toxicity, and by the medical professionals working with people who react to the excitotoxic effects of Manufactured free Glutamate.


Everyone is vulnerable to the toxicity of excitotoxins if they get a heavy enough dose of them. There are no exceptions.  To be toxic, an excitotoxin must either target receptors that have become weakened or vulnerable to their attack, or be in such strong concentrations that no glutamate receptor can resist them. 

Vulnerability may be created by:

  • An inadequate BBB — allowing brain cells to be unprotected by a blood-brain barrier (BBB);
  • A damaged BBB;
  • Preexisting brain damage, possibly from a stroke, a blow to the head, or previously consuming a large quantity of Manufactured free glutamate at one sitting, and
  • Preexisting damage done to cells that host glutamate receptors in either the central nervous system or in peripheral tissue.

We know very little about the actions of excitotoxins. Glutamate loads on (triggers) glutamate receptors both in the central nervous system and in peripheral tissue (heart, lungs, and intestines, for example). When loading on (stimulating) a glutamate receptor, glutamate may simply stimulate receptors and then fade, so to speak; may damage the cells that those receptors cling to; or may stimulate those receptors (over-excite those receptors) until the cells that host them die.

There’s another possibility. There are a great many glutamate receptors in the brain. It is possible that if a few are damaged or wiped out following ingestion of Manufactured free glutamate, their loss may not be noticed because there would be many undamaged glutamate receptors remaining. It is also possible that individuals differ in the numbers of glutamate receptors that they have to begin with; that people with more glutamate receptors are less likely to demonstrate brain damage following ingestion of Manufactured free glutamate because even after some cells are killed or damaged, there are still sufficient undamaged cells to carry out normal functions.

Saying it another way, people with fewer receptors to begin with might be more likely to demonstrate brain damage following ingestion of MSG or MfG because they have fewer glutamate receptors remaining after excitotoxic insult than individuals who had more glutamate receptors to begin with. That might account for some people being more sensitive to Manufactured free glutamate than others.

Less is known about glutamate receptors outside the brain – in the heart, stomach, and lungs, for example. But it would be anticipated that in each location there would be fewer glutamate receptors siting on host cells than found in the brain; and for some individuals, there might be so few cells with glutamate receptors to begin with, that ingestion of even small amounts of Manufactured free glutamate might trigger asthma, atrial fibrillation, or irritable bowel, for example; while individuals with more cells hosting glutamate receptors to begin with, would not notice the loss of a relatively few cells.

Short-term effects of excitotoxic glutamate (effects like asthma and migraine headache) have long been obvious to all who are not swayed by the rhetoric of the glutamate industry and their friends, including friends at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Researchers may only now begin to correlate the adverse effects of glutamate ingestion with endocrine disturbances such as reproductive disorders and gross obesity, with some psychological disorders, and with neurodegenerative disease. And a few have begun to realize the importance of glutamate’s access to the human body through the mouth, through the nose, and through the skin.  


Glutamate is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that there is no need for a human to ingest glutamate as the body will produce what it needs from other available amino acids.

A reaction to glutamate, is a reaction to excess free glutamate. Because of differences in vulnerability, what is an excess for one will not necessarily be excess for another. While excess might ordinarily be defined as “more than is needed for normal body function,” that doesn’t seem to be the case with glutamate-sensitivity. Rather, excess seems to be related to the amount of glutamate that will damage or kill a given subject’s glutamate receptors.

Excess may be created by:

  • Eating enough Manufactured free glutamate at one sitting to trigger glutamate receptors on vulnerable cells;
  • Eating enough Manufactured free glutamate to trigger glutamate receptors on cells that had not previously been damaged or made vulnerable, and
  • Adding ingested Manufactured free glutamate to stores of glutamate in the body.

Manufactured free glutamate will be found in infant formula, protein powders, protein drinks, processed food, enteral care products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and dietary supplements. There is more than sufficient Manufactured free glutamate in processed foods to cause reactions in people who choose not to limit their access to Manufactured free glutamate. 

Data on availability will be found in grocery stores. Access a list of ingredients that contain Manufactured free glutamate (https://www.truthinlabeling.org/names.html), then look for products that don’t contain them. You won’t find 10 products that don’t contain at least one of the ingredients on that list, and every one of them contains Manufactured free glutamate. Consider how many of those Manufactured free glutamate containing products are in the meals and snacks enjoyed by people everywhere. Include restaurant foods in that tally.

Glutamate receptors

Glutamate receptors receive the glutamate sent to them by glutamate neurotransmitters. Although glutamate is essential to normal body function, when present in excess outside of intact protein it becomes excitotoxic, firing repeatedly and causing cell death and/or damage to targeted cells.

If cells are protected from excess glutamate, as the brain may be protected at least in part by a robust BBB, a little excess glutamate sent their way may not harm them. But if the BBB is ineffective, targeted cells die. Outside of the brain and central nervous system, glutamate-receptors may have no protective shield from excitotoxins at all.

Relatively recently, researchers discovered glutamate-receptors beyond the brain and central nervous system.  These include, but are not limited to peripheral receptors in the stomach, heart, lungs, kidney, liver, immune system, spleen, and testis. And cells associated with each may be damaged or killed if glutamate sent from glutamate neurotransmitters reaches them. It’s possible that these peripheral receptors may have some type of protection system, but if so, scientists have not yet identified it.

Years ago, it was thought to be remarkable that glutamate-toxicity worked through the brain, since glutamate could produce an immediate migraine headache. Glutamate eaten – brain triggered – headache happened within seconds. Today it is understood that glutamate can move directly to peripheral receptors without traveling through the brain.

It appears that cells that host glutamate receptors can be damaged if exposed to a little glutamate, but not enough to kill them outright. There might be times when one ingests enough Manufactured free glutamate to damage a cell, but not enough to kill it, or damage some of the cells in a group that control a particular function but not enough to knock out all of them. Ingest more glutamate on a second occasion, however, and those cells may die. Some Manufactured free glutamate sensitive people report that they can knowingly ingest Manufactured free glutamate in a favorite food on one occasion without noticing a reaction, but visibly react when that same food is consumed several days in a row.

What would increase glutamate receptor vulnerability?

Damage to the BBB would be the most obvious factor.  It is known that lack of blood-brain barrier development in the fetus and infant make them extremely vulnerable to exposure to Manufactured free glutamate passed through their mothers’ diets.

Damage done to the BBBs of mature humans through use of drugs, from seizures, stroke, head trauma, hypoglycemia, hypertension, extreme physical stress, high fever, and the normal process of aging, can render them more vulnerable than others.

Individual sensitivity may also be related to the integrity of cells or groups of cells that control a particular function. A person who has experienced heart problems might very well be predisposed to experiencing cardiac-related reactions by virtue of having glutamate receptors in the heart vulnerable to insult by glutamate. A person with asthma, is likely predisposed to having an asthma attack after consuming free glutamate.

Reports from consumers tell us that intensity or severity of reactions appear to be affected by alcohol ingestion and/or exercise just prior to, or immediately following MSG ingestion, and some women report variations in their reactions at different times in their menstrual cycles. 


We have presented an overview of glutamate excitotoxicity gleaned in large part from persons who have experienced reactions to it.  This is information not generally considered by those researching abnormalities associate with glutamate.  Hopefully, insights generated by this information will be used by researchers probing the mechanisms of glutamate toxicity and by medical professionals working with people who react to the excitotoxic effects of Manufactured free glutamate.

1 growing or originating from within an organism.
2 originating from outside an organism.

It never pays to screw around with Mother Nature

L-glutamate, the major neurotransmitter in humans, becomes excitotoxic when present outside of protein in excess of what the healthy human was designed to accommodate. That excess is readily available to consumers who ingest multiple free-glutamate-containing ingredients during the course of a day.  They will be found in all ultra-processed food, meat and poultry substitutes, protein drinks, supplements, pharmaceuticals, and even Infant formula.

The “Dose dependent toxicity of glutamic acid” tells the story.


Samuels, A. (2020) Dose dependent toxicity of glutamic acid: a review, International Journal of Food Properties, 23:1,412-419, DOI: 10.1080/10942912.2020.1733016

There’s nothing controversial about the safety of MSG

There’s nothing controversial about the safety of MSG.

1) Its essential ingredient (manufactured free glutamate) kills brain cells when eaten , and

2) the “placebos” used in the GLUTES’ double-blind studies that ostensibly prove that MSG is harmless, always contain ingredients that produce adverse reactions identical to those caused by MSG test material .

The blogs that make up the web page titled “There are seven lines of evidence leading to the conclusion that the manufactured free glutamate (MfG) in monosodium glutamate is toxic” tell most of the story, with “Industry’s FDA” completing the picture.

There’s nothing controversial about the safety of MSG.