MSG and aspartame – ‘friends’ on the top ten

MSG and aspartame have a lot in common. Both contain an essential ingredient that is an excitotoxic — brain damaging — amino acid. And you’ll find both on more and more “top ten” lists of food additives to avoid.

The editors of Prevention list MSG and aspartame on their 10 food additives to never ever eat, calling FDA loopholes for “testing and approval“just plain dangerous.”

The website Food Matters includes MSG and aspartame on its Top ten food additives to avoid list, saying MSG is a “known excitotoxin, a substance which overexcites cells to the point of damage or death.”

Dr. Sears says to avoid MSG and aspartame “for the brain health of your family,” also noting that “excitotoxins can alter the chemistry of the brain.”

And a blog done by The Underground Health Reporter also notes MSG and aspartame as number one and two on their list of The 10 worst food ingredients.

It’s not just coincidental that they appear together, because the essential ingredient in each is an excitotoxic – brain damaging – amino acid.

Glutamic acid: initiator of the obesity epidemic

Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D., March, 2022 

NOTE: Studies confirming that the free glutamate in MSG causes brain damage, intractable obesity, infertility and more were done before it was understood that excitotoxic free glutamate would be found in ingredients other than MSG.


Obesity is the excessive or abnormal accumulation of fat or adipose tissue in the body that impairs health through its association with numerous serious diseases and health conditions.  It is a public health epidemic with an economic burden estimated to be about $100 billion annually in the United States alone (1).  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who are obese, compared to those with a healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following:    

  • All-causes of death (mortality)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Many types of cancers
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning (2).

There are countless factors that contribute to obesity, but only one that by itself can explain the ongoing obesity epidemic:the fact that excitotoxic amino acids (EAA) ingested by pregnant women are passed via the placenta to their fetuses where they cause brain lesions in the arcuate nucleus – brain damage that is followed by gross obesity as these children approach maturity.

A series of studies from 1969 and the decade that followed demonstrated that three conditions had to be met in order to produce food-induced neurotoxicity:  

  • A vulnerable brain (immature or damaged). 
  • A sufficient quantity of excitotoxic material to cause that material to become excitotoxic.   
  • A way for that excess material to be delivered to the vulnerable brain.

Damage caused by manufactured free glutamate delivered by pregnant women to the vulnerable brains of their fetuses meets all three of these conditions.  A sufficient quantity of excitotoxic material became available and accessible in 1957 when vast amounts of free glutamate began to appear in processed food.


Undisputed is the fact that there are high concentrations of glutamate in the brain.  When present in protein or released from protein in a regulated fashion (through routine digestion) glutamate is vital for normal body function. Glutamate is the principal neurotransmitter in humans, carrying nerve impulses from glutamate stimuli to glutamate receptors throughout the body.

Disputed by some producers of free glutamate is the assertion that glutamate is an excitotoxic amino acid.  This Jekyll and Hyde amino acid becomes toxic when present in greater quantity than a healthy human needs for normal body function. Then, as an excitotoxic neurotransmitter, it fires repeatedly, damaging targeted glutamate receptors and/or causing neuronal and non-neuronal death by over exciting those glutamate receptors until their host cells die (3-8).

Glutamate-induced brain damage

The first study to address the possibility that glutamate from exogenous sources (from eating, for example) might cause brain damage was published in 1969. At the time, it was demonstrated that glutamate-induced brain damage to the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus of neonatal animals was followed by obesity, reproductive dysfunction, behavioral disturbances and more (9).  In the decade that followed, research confirmed that glutamate given as monosodium glutamate administered or fed to neonatal animals causes hypothalamic damage, endocrine disruption, and behavior disorders after either subcutaneous (10-31) or oral (17,23,24,26,32-36) doses. 

Developmental dysfunction or abnormalities in growth and behavior were also noted in a number of studies. Animals treated with glutamate as neonates or in the first 12 days of life suffer neuroendocrine disturbances including obesity and stunting, abnormalities of the reproductive system, and underdevelopment of certain endocrine glands (9,18,20,36,37-54) and possible learning deficits either immediately or in later life (40,43,44,55-61).

In addition, Bhagavan and others reported behavioral reactions including somnolence and seizures (62-69; tail automutilation; (42,56) and learned taste aversion (58). Irritability to touch was interpreted as conspicuous emotional change by Nemeroff (42). Lynch (70) reported hyperglycemia along with growth suppression. He noted that hyperglycemia did not occur when subjects were given intact protein that contained a large amount of glutamate.

Since the 1980s, researchers have focused on identifying and understanding human abnormalities associated with free glutamate, often for the purpose of finding drugs that would mitigate glutamate’s adverse effects.  Invariably, those have been studies of the glutamate from endogenous sources.  The possibility that glutamate from exogenous sources might contribute to those abnormalities and/or might cause brain damage in humans leading to gross obesity, was not considered.

The case for the safety of MSG

Brain lesions

In the 1960s and 1970s, research done by people not employed by the glutamate industry demonstrated that monosodium glutamate fed to laboratory animals causes brain lesions, endocrine disorders, and observable adverse reactions.

In response, glutamate-industry researchers pretended to replicate those animal studies; but changed the methodology enough to make certain that there would be nothing negative to report.  

 These investigators made no attempt to replicate the methods of the independent scientists, and used entirely different (and inappropriate) methods for preservation and staining brain tissue in the analysis of results. 

On occasion, I had the privilege of visiting with John W. Olney, MD, the man who coined the term “excitotoxin” to describe the effects he had seen free glutamate have on neonatal animals.  And while he didn’t dwell on criticizing the research of others, he was generous in answering my questions.  He told me that when he first found that glutamate (given as MSG) caused brain damage in infant mice, he searched out or was put in touch with Dr. W. Ann Reynolds, and either Reynolds or someone sent by Reynolds spent a great deal of time in Olney’s laboratory, learning the detail of how his experiments had been conducted.  By and large, it was Reynolds and coworkers Filer, Stegink, and Lemkey Johnson who failed to replicate Olney’s findings.  Other industry scientists producing similar results using similar methodology were affiliated with laboratories that did contract work for the glutamate industry.

Adverse reactions

Glutamate-induced adverse reactions may or may not involve the brain.  There has been no study of that issue. But since the subject of this paper is glutamate-induced obesity second to brain damage caused by glutamate ingested in quantity by pregnant women and passed to fetuses through the placenta, the subject of glutamate-induced adverse reactions has not been considered.

Establishment of excess free glutamate

It is necessary for a substantial amount of free glutamate to be ingested for that free glutamate to become excitotoxic.  For glutamate to be excitotoxic, there must be an accumulation of free glutamate greater than needed for normal body function.  

In 1957, bacterial fermentation was introduced as a new and improved method for production of free glutamate for use in food. From that point forward, with genetically modified bacteria secreting free glutamic acid through their cell walls, unlimited production of free glutamic acid was virtually assured (71).

It wasn’t long before competing manufacturers added dozens more excitotoxic food additives to the American diet. Following MSG’s surge in production and its manufacturer’s aggressive advertising, there was broad recognition that profits could be increased if a company produced its own flavor-enhancing additives. Since that time, the market has been flooded with flavor enhancers and protein substitutes that contain manufactured free glutamate such as hydrolyzed pea protein, yeast extracts, maltodextrin and soy protein isolate, as well as MSG. 

Although there have been studies that mention the fact that there are substantial amounts of free glutamic acid in processed food (72-80) there has been no systematic study. There are, however, numerous market reports with promotional materials that speak of manufactured glutamate history and forecast.  Market reports for monosodium glutamate focus on that commodity.  Market reports for glutamic acid generally take into account all flavor enhancers (81-87). 

You only have to compare the ingredients listed on the labels of processed and ultra-processed foods to a list of the hidden sources of manufactured free glutamate to realize just how much manufactured free glutamate there is in the food supply. Table 1 lists the food ingredients that contain free glutamate as an ingredient or a constituent of an ingredient. By virtue of the fact that ultra-processed foods are typically made with inferior foods and/or chemicals, every ultra-processed food contains flavor-enhancers, which will contain manufactured free glutamate regardless of the ingredient names on the labels describing those ingredients.   

Today, there is sufficient excitotoxic free glutamate in processed foods, dietary supplements, snacks, protein powders and protein drinks, protein substitutes, fake meat, enteral care products, and pharmaceuticals for a person to consume in a day’s time the quantity necessary for that free glutamate to become excitotoxic.  Only a portion of that comes in an ingredient called monosodium glutamate or E621. 

Since the 1957 change in method of MSG and manufactured free glutamate production, there are so many products that contain excitotoxic ingredients that it is easy for a consumer to ingest an excess of excitotoxic material during the course of a day.   

Effective delivery of excitotoxic free glutamateA way for that excess of glutamate to be delivered to the vulnerable brain.

Effective delivery of excitotoxic free glutamate would depend in large part on the integrity/health of the brain to which it is being delivered.

In children and adults with mature brains, delivery can be accomplished by providing the subject with free glutamate to ingest in sufficient quantity to cause it to be excitotoxic.

Delivery of excitotoxic free glutamate to a fetus and/or neonate will be accomplished when a pregnant or lactating female passes excess free glutamate to a fetus or neonate through the placenta or in mothers’ milk.

Nourishment (and not so nourishing material) is delivered to the fetus in the form of material ingested by a pregnant woman and passed to the fetus through the placenta. MSG can cross the placenta during pregnancy (88-90), can cross the blood brain barrier (BBB) in an unregulated manner during development (91-94), and can pass through the five circumventricular organs which are leaky at best at any stage of life (92,95).  Glutamate is an ingredient that passes to the fetus. The placenta does not filter out glutamate (88).   Moreover, the BBB is easily damaged by fever, stroke, trauma to the head, seizures, ingestion of MSG, and the normal process of aging (66,96). 

And the fetus will be more vulnerable to glutamate-insult than the newborn.

Similar to drugs and alcohol, free glutamate can also be passed to infants through mothers’ milk. Newborn humans will receive glutamate through mothers’ milk or through infant formula, both of which routinely contain free glutamate (97).

The glutamate in mothers’ milk, however, will not be excitotoxic unless lactating mothers ingest excessive quantities of free glutamate – quantities sufficient to cause free glutamate to become excitotoxic.

Onset of the obesity epidemic 

According to the Surgeon General’s “Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation,” the prevalence of obesity changed relatively little during the 1960s and 1970s, but increased sharply over the ensuing decades (98).

That information is consistent with information that comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) which periodically collect measured height and weights in representative samples of the population.  The first records of weight came from the CDC’s 1960-1962 report with subsequent reports confirming that the prevalence of obesity among adults more than doubled between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008 (99).

Summary and conclusions 

We have briefly discussed excitotoxicity, the phenomenon underlying the obesity epidemic, drawing attention to the fact that a possible role for excitotoxins from exogenous sources has not previously been considered. 

We have reviewed the studies that present evidence of glutamate excitotoxicity. Underscoring the recognition that glutamate-induced brain damage leads to obesity, is the fact that since 1980, it has been common practice to use monosodium glutamate or glutamic acid to produce brain-damaged obese animals for use in studies of various glutamate-related abnormalities.

We have described the way in which excitotoxic free glutamate can be delivered by pregnant women to fetuses and neonates, causing brain damage and subsequent obesity.

The single challenge to the assertion that the brains of the fetus and neonate are vulnerable to the toxic effects of glutamic acid from exogenous sources has been mounted by the International Glutamate Committee (IGTC) based on a paper Richard Hawkins presented in September 2008 at the IGTC’s 100th Anniversary Symposium of Umami Discovery: “The Roles of Glutamate in Taste, Gastrointestinal Function.”  

In 1969, the IGTC was organized to represent the interests of Ajinomoto, the U.S. producer of MSG and manufactured free glutamate. Hawkins received both travel expenses and an honorarium from the IGTC, and acknowledged the sharing of ideas and advice from Andrew Ebert, Ajinomoto’s agent in charge of providing test and placebo materials to their researchers doing double-blind studies on the safety of MSG.  It was Ebert who provided his researchers with placebos containing aspartic acid, an excitotoxic amino acid known to cause adverse reactions and brain damage identical to that caused by the excitotoxic glutamic acid in MSG test material. 

Without taking into consideration the unique properties of an immature brain, Hawkins asserted that the human brain is impervious to glutamate damage.

It has been demonstrated that following the 1957 modernization of glutamate production, there has been sufficient free glutamate available and accessible in processed and ultra-processed foods to cause accumulated glutamate to become excitotoxic.

From National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) documenting the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and extreme obesity, we have observed increased incidence of obesity dating from 1960, as well as the demonstration of racial disparities. In the 2012 article “The Nation’s childhood obesity epidemic: Health disparities in the making,” Suzanne Johnson makes a case for the obesity epidemic being, in part, a product of an environment that promotes overeating — over time having changed the type and quantity of food we eat.  She cites less time for in home food preparation, the consumption of a plethora of fast food and convenience food, and the fact that fast-food restaurants are more common in ethnic minority neighborhoods (100).

The reader has only to connect the dots between 1) the vulnerable brain of the fetus and neonate receiving excitotoxic amino acids in processed and ultra-processed food, and 2) the fact that prior to the surge in production of glutamic acid triggered by the modernization of manufacture of the glutamic acid in MSG, there was no obesity epidemic.  Then trace the unfolding of the obesity epidemic from reformulation of free glutamate in 1957 to the early 1970s when those made obese by the influx of free glutamate began to become noticeable.  

Thus, it has been demonstrated that obesity can be caused by excitotoxic amino acids ingested by pregnant and/or nursing women and delivered to fetuses and neonates who exhibit obesity as they reach maturity.

No discussion would be complete without considering why this information has not been discussed previously by others.  With the first suggestion that MSG might have toxic potential, those with financial interest in promoting MSG as a valuable flavor-enhancer launched well-funded, well-articulated campaigns to promote their product and deny its toxicity. That included rigging studies to come to the foredrawn conclusion that MSG is a harmless food additive and securing the active cooperation of regulators as well as the help of medical professionals (101).

That might account for the fact that to date, the roles of MSG and manufactured free glutamate in the obesity epidemic have been overlooked.

Recognition of the fact that glutamate-induced brain damage in fetuses and neonates lies at the root of the obesity epidemic should serve as a valid starting point for new ground-breaking research. It should put an end to the shame and blame that have long been associated with obesity, and facilitate appropriate counseling and medical interventions for those who are afflicted. 

Excitotoxic amino acids delivered to fetuses and neonates by pregnant and nursing women should be included as recognized risk factors for obesity.  

References can be found here.

There’s good glutamate and bad glutamate

It’s really tricky to talk about glutamate.  It’s one of a bundle of amino acids – molecules used by all living things to make proteins. Humans have always created glutamate in their bodies in carefully controlled amounts. And up until the time industry discovered how to make unlimited supplies of glutamate, you could generally get all the essential amino acids your body needed by eating a healthy balanced diet on top of the amino acids that you made in your body.

Then in 1957, what had been true wasn’t true anymore. In 1957 one of industry’s finest began to produce free glutamate in unlimited quantities. Now, humans were no longer dealing with carefully controlled amounts of free glutamate in their food. Instead, they were dealing with adverse reactions such as skin rashes, asthma, migraine headache and fibromyalgia. And although it only became evident years later, many also suffered brain damage followed by obesity and infertility.

Think about it. Ingesting the quantities of free glutamate that became available in 1957 means there is more glutamate flooding the human body than the cells of the body can use.  And the excesses accumulate in what’s called interstitial tissue (areas between cells), where they join with other excitotoxic neurotransmitters, firing repeatedly until their targeted glutamate receptors die – causing brain damage. 

Types of products that contain processed free glutamic acid (FG)

In general…

Free glutamic acid, a.k.a. free glutamate (FG), the brain-damaging component of MSG can be used (and hidden) in processed foods, dietary supplements, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and the food that is given to pets and other animals. It can be used in waxes applied to fresh fruits and vegetables. It can be used in ingredients used in pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, and plant growth enhancers — remaining in the edible portion of the plant or on the edible portion of the plant when its leaves, fruits, nuts, grains, seeds, and other edible parts are brought to market.

There are over 60 food ingredients besides “monosodium glutamate” that contain processed free glutamic acid (FG). Each, according to the FDA, must be called by its own, unique, “common or usual name.” “Autolyzed yeast,” “maltodextrin,” “hydrolyzed pea protein,” and “sodium caseinate” are the common or usual names of some ingredients that contain FG. Unlike the ingredient called “monosodium glutamate,” they give the consumer no clue to the fact that there is FG in the ingredient.

In addition to ingredients that contain FG, some acids and enzymes when combined with a food that contains protein will produce FG. The words “enzyme” and “protease” (which is a type of enzyme) signal the presence of enzymes capable of causing the production of FG.

In particular…

– Low fat and no fat milk products often contain milk solids that contain FG. Other dairy products often contain guar gum and/or locust bean gum. Low fat and no fat versions of ice-cream and cheese may not be as obvious as yogurt, milk, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, etc., but they are not exceptions.

– Protein powders and protein drinks contain FG, and the FG in the protein powders and drinks will always be processed (manufactured), i.e., will always contain processed FG. Individual amino acids are not always listed on labels of protein powders and drinks.

– When this was written, there was an FDA requirement to give the name of the protein source when listing hydrolyzed protein products on labels of processed foods. Examples are hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed pea protein, hydrolyzed whey protein, hydrolyzed, corn protein. If a tomato, for example, were whole, it would be identified as a tomato. Naming an ingredient “tomato protein” indicates that the tomato has been hydrolyzed, at least in part, and that processed FG is present.

– At one time, and maybe still, the FDA required disclosure of ingredients labeled “monosodium glutamate” and “hydrolyzed…protein” when, as ingredients, they are used in “flavor” or “flavoring” (whether or not the “flavor” or “flavoring” is preceded by the words “natural” or “artificial”). However, “flavors” and “flavorings” can contain FG in ingredients other than “monosodium glutamate” and “hydrolyzed…protein” without the name of the FG-containing ingredient being disclosed.

– Disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate are relatively expensive food additives that work synergistically with inexpensive FG. We believe they would only be used if there was already FG in the product.

– FG will be found in some soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and cosmetics, where FG is hidden in ingredients, often with names that include the words “hydrolyzed,” “amino acids,” and/or “protein.”

– Binders and fillers for prescription and non-prescription medications, nutrients, and supplements, may contain FG.

– Enteral feeding materials, and some fluids administered intravenously in hospitals, may contain FG.

– According to the manufacturer, as this was written, Varivax–Merck chicken pox vaccine (Varicella Virus Live), contained L-monosodium glutamate and hydrolyzed gelatin, both of which contain FG. It would appear that most, if not all, live virus vaccines contain some ingredient(s) that contain(s) FG.

– There are a number of ingredients identified as organic that, organic or not, will contain FG. Autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, textured soy protein, and anything hydrolyzed are examples of ingredients that may be made from organic produce but will never-the-less contain FG.

– Drinks, candy, and chewing gum are potential sources of hidden FG. They may also contain aspartame, neotame, Equal, or AminoSweet (one of the newer names for aspartame). We mention aspartame, neotame, and AminoSweet here because they, like MSG, contain a neurotoxic amino acid, and can cause the same reactions that MSG causes.

– Aspartame will be found in some medications, including children’s medications.

– Some waxes used on fruits and vegetables contain FG.

– Anything that breaks down the protein in a product can produce FG as it breaks down that protein. There have been reports of people reacting to meat wrapped in Cryovac.

Cryovac is a registered trademark for a thick plastic in which meat is sealed with the air removed by a vacuum pump. The word Cryovac is also used for the thermoplastic resin wrapping film which can be heat-shrunk onto foods.

– Produce may have been produced using fertilizer or pesticide products that contain FG. Some of these fertilizers may be organic. It is impossible to know from looking at produce whether or not it has been treated with an FG containing fertilizer or pesticide product that leaves residue in or on the produce.

– Some non-organic waxes used on some fruits and vegetables contain FG.

– Additional sources of FG include infant formula, kosher food, enteral feeding products (tube feeding products), dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, protein drinks often recommended for seniors, protein bars and protein powders, vaccines, personal care products, protein powders sold in health food stores, food that is labeled “organic,” wine, food with labels that say “No Added MSG,” “No MSG Added,” or “No MSG,” food that is falsely advertised as containing no MSG, and in food whose manufacturers claim, in response to questions, that their products contain no MSG.

– FG can be hidden by restaurateurs who claim that the food they serve contains no MSG.

About “organic” products…

Where MSG is concerned, “organic” doesn’t mean “safe.” Ingredients like organic autolyzed yeast and organic natural flavoring have just as much FG in them as those not called “organic.” Following are two products labeled “organic” that were brought to our attention as containing FG. There are others.

Product: Vegetable Bouillon 

By: Morga

Ingredients include: Yeast extract; Maltodextrin

Product: Macaroni & Cheese Dinner

By: Simply Organic

Ingredients include: Natural flavors; Autolyzed yeast extract

Also listed as organic are fertilizer products that contain hydrolyzed fish protein and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. All hydrolyzed ingredients contain FG.

About “Health Food” stores…

Health food stores are mine fields for FG. Protein powders are generally nothing more or less than hydrolyzed proteins – and will contain all three manufactured neurotoxic amino acids: glutamic acid, aspartic acid, and L-cysteine. Food labeled “organic” cannot legitimately contain monosodium glutamate, but can contain other ingredients that contain FG. Dietary supplements will often contain individual amino acids (because they can be absorbed by the body more quickly than amino acids found in protein which have to be digested before they can be absorbed); and if dietary supplements contain individual amino acids, those amino acids may be neurotoxic glutamic acid, aspartic acid, and/or L-cysteine, all manufactured in food and/or chemical plants.

These are the names of some of the FG-containing ingredients often found in Health Food stores:

amino acids (They almost invariably contain glutamic acid.)

autolyzed yeast  

citric acid  


glutamic acid  

hydrolyzed protein  

monopotassium glutamate

monosodium glutamate    


whey protein concentrate

There are also chelates. Minerals found individually and in some multi-vitamins, are usually joined to amino acids for better absorption, i.e., the minerals or multi-vitamins are chelated. The following are names used for chelates that will contain FG and/or aspartic acid and phenylalanine which are two of the main ingredients in MSG’s toxic cousin aspartame:

amino acid chelate (chelated with amino acids)

potassium (or any other mineral) citrate  

potassium (or any other mineral) aspartate   

potassium (or any other mineral) glutamate 

chelated with hydrolyzed protein,  

chelated with protein  

chelated with amino acids

Some supplement manufacturers place asterisks after the names of minerals. Below the list of ingredients, the asterisk is often followed by a note that explains that the mineral is “chelated with hydrolyzed protein,” “chelated with protein,” or “chelated with amino acids.”

Protein powders are all the rage for body builders and older people. The main ingredient is typically a hydrolyzed protein — and hydrolyzed proteins contain FG, excitotoxic aspartic acid (found in aspartame), and excitotoxic L-cysteine (found in some dough conditioners). We have concern for anyone who ingests any form of FG in his or her diet. We have extreme concern for athletes who ingest FG just prior to, just following, or in the course of vigorous exercise, because there is evidence that the adverse effects of FG may be intensified by vigorous exercise. Heart irregularities have been known to be caused by ingestion of FG and/or aspartame. Heart irregularities can result in cardiac arrest.

About hospitals, nursing homes, and extended care facilities…

The most common sources of FG in hospitals, nursing homes, and extended care facilities will be:

-Soups – even if the institution purchases soups and/or soup bases that claim to be MSG-free

-Protein drinks such as Boost and Ensure

-Enteral care products – used when tube feeding



-Salad dressings

-Intravenous solutions. Reactions have been reported to saline solution and solutions containing dextrose. Ringers solution appears to be (or at one time appeared to be) FG-free.

-Anything no fat or low fat

-Anything made with a sugar substitute likely contains neurotoxic aspartame, Equal, or AminoSweet.

People with extreme intolerance to FG have difficulty with pharmaceuticals that contain FG in the binders and/or fillers. They may also react to the starch on powdered gloves and/or the contacts that are glued to a patient’s chest for heart monitoring. The contact points that touch the body may contain guar gum which, after several days’ exposure, may cause adverse reactions.

About pet food…

It’s not only humans that have problems with FG. The first evidence of FG toxicity came from animal studies, some of which demonstrated that animals suffered brain lesions and endocrine disorders when fed monosodium glutamate. The possibility that your animal is sensitive to FG is certainly worth considering. We have received the following from consumers:

Subj: Pet Food & MSG

Date: 8/17/2004 1.48:20 AM Central Standard Time

Dear Folks, would you consider adding an article on MSG in our Pet Food. Just about all the grocery store dog food and most of the canned cat food has various products with an msg base. What can we do about this??? Our pets are much smaller than we are and surely this is extremely bad for their small frame. God help us all. Also, how about my favorite ice cream which is Haagen Daz. I eat the simple flavors, Vanilla, Chocolate, Butter Pecan. I eat it because the original flavors are cream, skim milk, vanilla, chocolate. Anyways, thank you for being here. God Bless your work. M.D.


From: D


Sent: 1/24/2009 2:07:06 P.M. Central Standard Time

Subj: MSG

Our bichpoo dog (6 yrs) ate some sweet & sour pork (left over from Chinese take out). Almost immediately he began to exhibit hyperness, running& jumping, and almost seemed to be “high” on something. He seemed disoriented and didn’t settle down for almost six hours. The vet said he had never seen a dog show these symptoms from eating food. Could he be extremely sensitive to MSG or have you ever heard of this in an animal? Obviously no more people food for Buster. Thanks

Beyond MSG…

People who are sensitive to processed free glutamic acid (MSG), or those who simply would choose to avoid ingestion of toxic amino acids, need to know that there are two other neurotoxic amino acids commonly used in food: aspartic acid and L-cysteine. Aspartic acid is found in the sugar substitutes called “neotame,” “aspartame,” “AminoSweet,” “NutraSweet,” and “Equal.” L-cysteine is identified as L-cysteine and is most often found in dough conditioners.

It’s never too late to set the record straight. Glutamate: The weapon we used against ourselves in the Gulf War


In the well-researched article, “Emerging role of glutamate in the pathophysiology and therapeutics of Gulf War illness (GWI),” substantial evidence is presented demonstrating that Gulf War-related agents and traumatic stress (Gulf War-related exposures) affect glutamate transmission in the brain (1).

Named as examples of Gulf War-related chemical agents were pyridostigmine bromide (given to soldiers as an anti-nerve agent pretreatment), sarin nerve agent, pesticides, and smoke from burning oil wells.

Also named were the commonly reported symptoms of veterans identified as suffering with GWI, which include mood problems, cognitive impairment, muscle and joint pain, migraine headache, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal complaints, skin rashes, and respiratory problems. 

Encouraged by growing evidence indicating that abnormal glutamate neurotransmission may contribute to the GWI symptoms, the authors summarized the potential roles of glutamate dyshomeostasis and dysfunction of the glutamatergic system in linking the initial cause to the multi-symptomatic outcomes in GWI and suggested the glutamatergic system as a therapeutic target for GWI.  

Their research did not, however, take into account the fact that those deployed to the Gulf War were consuming excitotoxic chemicals in their food on a daily basis. The authors failed to realize that food being fed to those deployed to the Gulf War contained neurotoxic chemical agents just as the Gulf War environment did, and that review of relevant literature would demonstrate that the excitotoxic manufactured free glutamate (MfG), present in quantity in processed food could cause and/or exacerbate GWI.

A May 2021 search of PubMed for Gulf War Illness returned 730 articles, 622 of which made no mention of glutamate. Of the eight others, only one came close to associating glutamate with food consumed by service men and women in the combat zone, but even that study focused on the value of a low-glutamate diet as treatment for the injured, not as a possible means of prevention (2). No study of GWI cited on PubMed considered the possibility that those on the front lines were consuming excitotoxic chemicals in processed foods on a daily basis.

Glutamate as an excitotoxic amino acid

Evidence that glutamate is an excitotoxic amino acid is well understood by neuroscientists.  In 1969, Olney published results of the first study that demonstrated that glutamate administered to laboratory animals caused brain lesions in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus as well as other areas of the brain, with brain damage followed by obesity, behavioral abnormalities and reproductive dysfunction (3). And Olney coined the term “excitotoxin” to explain the phenomenon.  At the time, researchers were administering glutamate to laboratory animals subcutaneously using Accent brand MSG because it had been observed that the product was as effective for inflicting brain damage as more expensive pharmaceutical grade L-glutamate (3).  The glutamate administered would have been made up of both L-glutamate (the glutamate enantiomer with flavor-enhancing potential) and D-glutamate (an unwanted by-product accompanying the manufacture of the L-glutamate manufactured for use in MSG).

L-glutamate is the L enantiomer of glutamic acid (glutamate), an acidic amino acid which when present in protein or released from protein in a regulated fashion (through routine digestion) is vital for normal body function. It is the principal neurotransmitter in humans, 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 (which can vary widely from person to person), glutamate becomes an excitotoxic neurotransmitter, firing repeatedly, damaging targeted glutamate-receptors and/or causing neuronal and non-neuronal death by over exciting those glutamate receptors until their host cells die (4-9).

Throughout the 1970s, researchers confirmed that glutamate induces hypothalamic damage when given to immature animals after either subcutaneous or oral doses (10).

In the 1980s, researchers focused on identifying and understanding abnormalities associated with glutamate, often for the purpose of finding drugs that would mitigate glutamate’s adverse effects.  It is well documented that L-glutamate is implicated in kidney and liver disorders, neurodegenerative disease, and more.  By 1980, glutamate-associated disorders such as headaches, asthma, diabetes, muscle pain, atrial fibrillation, ischemia, trauma, seizures, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), epilepsy, addiction, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), frontotemporal dementia and autism were on the rise, and evidence of the toxic effects of glutamate were generally accepted by the scientific community. A November 15, 2020 search of the National Library of Medicine using returned 3872 citations for “glutamate-induced.”

By and large, the glutamate in question was, and still is, glutamate from endogenous sources. The possible toxicity of glutamate from exogenous sources such as glutamate-containing protein substitutes and glutamate-containing flavor enhancers has generally not been considered.  Only Olney and a few others have suggested that ingestion of free glutamate might play a role in producing the excess amounts of glutamate needed for endogenous glutamate to become excitotoxic (11).

Additional evidence of the toxicity of glutamate from exogenous sources such as eating, comes from studies undertaken by the producer of MSG to convince the public that MSG is a harmless food additive. Detail of how studies were systematically designed to produce negative results (no harm found) is elaborated in supplemental files at the end: 1 (The Toxicity/Safety of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG): A Study in Suppression of Information), 2 (Designed for Deception), and 3 (The Alleged Safety of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).

The success of glutamate-industry double-blind studies that always produced negative results (no MSG-induced damage demonstrated) can be attributed, at least in part, to use of “placebos” containing undisclosed excitotoxic amino acids that cause reactions identical to those caused by MSG test material.

The single greatest obstacle to transparency of the dangers of MSG has been the FDA’s 50-year allegiance to Ajinomoto, the U.S. manufacturer of MSG, with the FDA maintaining that MSG, a product never tested for safety, is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) while simultaneously parroting Ajinomoto’s misleading statements and downright lies. During the 1990s, that relationship was harmonized by the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (SFSAN), Fred Shank (deceased) being CFSAN director at the time. As Director of CFSAN, Shank led the development of policies and programs focused on consumer protection, including the implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, the most comprehensive food labeling legislation in U.S. History. And he refused to include consideration of the toxicity of MSG in that legislation. Also notably influential at that time on behalf of the alleged safety of MSG was Linda Tollefson, Associate Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine (retired).

Those familiar with adverse reactions following ingestion of MSG, whose essential component is excitotoxic – brain damaging — free glutamic acid (MfG), understand that MfG affects each individual differently, with multiple organ systems involved including the nervous system, digestive system, and respiratory system. Similar to reports of GWI symptoms, symptoms reported by MSG-sensitive people include fatigue, joint pain, memory loss, sleep difficulties, headaches, concentration loss, depression and anxiety, skin rashes, gastrointestinal problems, and breathing problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Table 2 lists reactions reported following ingestion of MSG and the other ingredients that contain MfG.  For a short time, the FDA also maintained a list of adverse reactions to MSG in their Adverse Reactions Monitoring System. These were unsolicited reports kept before the FDA decided that “there was no point to keeping such records because the FDA knew that virtually no one was sensitive to MSG (12).”

The wide variety in GWI symptomatology provides the clue to identifying at least one cause of GWI. 

Pharmaceuticals come with package inserts that list the side effects known to occur in some people following administration. The reactions listed in those package inserts are as varied as reactions known to occur following ingestion of MfG. (Different pharmaceuticals produce different side effects in different people.  MSG produces different side effects, a.k.a. adverse reactions, in different people.)  No surprise here, for when used in food, glutamate is called a food and when used in pharmaceuticals, the same glutamate is called a drug.  The symptoms expressed individually by GWI veterans are all symptoms that occur to some consumers following ingestion of MfG.

Aside from a pair of studies that demonstrated a low-glutamate diet reduced multiple symptoms of GWI (13,14) there has not been even a hint in the medical literature that ingestion of MfG in the food available to Gulf War forces might have contributed to GWI.

It comes as no surprise to those of us who have dealt on a daily basis with the adverse reactions caused by MfG, that the military would be unaware of its relevance to GWI, for beginning in 1969 with the first evidence of glutamate excitotoxicity, information pertaining to glutamate toxicity has been systematically suppressed.  Since 1991, no major U.S. media have carried so much as a hint that MSG, the best-known of the ingredients that contain MfG, might be anything more than controversial.  And few researchers in the U.S. broached the subject of glutamate-toxicity prior to the relatively new research cited here that has suggested or demonstrated a link between glutamate and GWI (1,13-18). 

Since 1988, when George Schwartz, M.D. published “In Bad Taste: the MSG Syndrome,” (19) the U.S. manufacturer of MSG has been engaged in dissemination of deceptive and misleading information that hypes the safety of their product.

That includes the MSG-is-safe research double-blind studies systematically designed to produce negative studies (no MSG-inflicted harm found) which always included, among other things, the use of placebos containing excitotoxic amino acids known to cause reactions identical to those caused by MSG.

In discussing the suppression of information about the excitotoxicity of free glutamate, we would be remiss in not addressing the subject of “authoritative bodies” who have said that MSG and the glutamate in it are safe for human consumption. Recently mentioned in glutamate-industry material as organizations on record as having reviewed the safety of MSG and found it to be a harmless food additive were Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the New South Wales Government Food Authority in Australia, the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Those organizations did no research of their own, either in the laboratory or the library, but reviewed material brought to them by the U.S. manufacture of MSG, the FDA, or others such as Andrew Ebert, Ph.D. the “scientist” in charge of MSG-is-safe research prior to the time he was exposed for overseeing use of excitotoxic amino acids in double-blind study placebos. Ebert distributed both test materials and material that he called placebos (allegedly inert substances that could not possibly cause a physical reaction in a person who ingested them) for use in double-blind studies designed to demonstrate that MSG is safe.

The only question about the role that glutamate plays in cause or exacerbation of GWI that remains to be addressed here has to do with availability of sufficient free glutamate to cause the free glutamate present to express excitotoxicity. At one time it would have been meaningful to note that the amount of excitotoxic material in a particular ingredient would not be sufficient to cause brain damage or adverse reactions. But since the 1957 change in method of MSG production, there are so many products that contain manufactured free glutamate and other excitotoxins that it is easy for a consumer to ingest an excess of excitotoxic material during the course of a day (20-24).

Prior to 1957, the amount of free glutamate or other excitotoxic additives in the average U.S. diet had been unremarkable. During that year, however, the method of producing the free glutamate that makes up the excitotoxic portion of MSG changed from extraction of glutamate from a protein source, a slow and costly method, to a process of bacterial fermentation (25). This allowed virtually unlimited production of free glutamate and MSG.

It didn’t take long for industry to add dozens more excitotoxic food additives to the American diet. Following MSG’s surge in production and aggressive advertising, it was realized that profits could be significantly increased if companies produced their own flavor-enhancing additives. Since that time, the market has been flooded with flavor enhancers and protein substitutes that contain MfG such as hydrolyzed proteins, yeast extracts, maltodextrin and soy protein isolate, as well as MSG. (See table 3). To that has been added the toxic load contributed by excitotoxic aspartic acid, approved by the FDA for use in aspartame, equal, and related products starting in 1974.  The excitotoxins in aspartic acid and glutamic acid act in an additive fashion.

Soon after use of genetically modified bacteria in the production of MSG began, availability of MSG and other MfG-containing products increased to the point where there was more than sufficient MfG to become excitotoxic if a number of processed and ultra-processed foods were consumed during the course of a day. And an environment full of war-related toxic chemical agents would be likely to enhance a soldier’s vulnerability.


There was sufficient manufactured free glutamate in processed foods served to Gulf War service members to serve as an excitotoxic – brain damaging – chemical, causing or exacerbating GWI.


1. Wang X, Ali N, Lin C.  Emerging role of glutamate in the pathophysiology and therapeutics of Gulf War illness.  Life Sci.  2021 May 12: 119609.

2. Joyce MR, Holton KF.  Neurotoxicity in Gulf War Illness and the potential role of glutamate.  Neurotoxicology. 2020;80:60-70.

3. Olney JW. Brain lesions, obesity, and other disturbances in mice treated with monosodium glutamate. Science. 1969;164(880):719-721.

4. Excitotoxicity and cell damage

5. Ischemia-Triggered Glutamate Excitotoxicity From the Perspective of Glial Cells

6. Hernández DE et al. Axonal degeneration induced by glutamate excitotoxicity is mediated by necroptosis. J. Cell Sci. 2018 Nov 19;131(22):jcs214684.

7. Garzón F et al. NeuroEPO preserves neurons from glutamate-induced excitotoxicity J. Alzheimers Dis. 2018;65(4):1469-1483.

8. Zárate SC, Traetta ME, Codagnone MG,  Seilicovich A  Reinés AG.

Humanin, a mitochondrial-derived peptide released by astrocytes, prevents synapse loss in hippocampal neurons. Front Aging Neurosci. 2019 May 31;11:123.

9. Plitman E et al. Glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity in schizophrenia: a review. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014;24:1591-1605.

10. Studies demonstrating both glutamate and MSG-induced brain damage

11. Alerts from independent researchers outside of the United States, warning of the dangers posed by ingesting MSG

12. Summary of adverse reactions attributed to MSG

13. Joyce MR, Holton KF. Neurotoxicity in Gulf War Illness and the potential role of glutamate. Neurotoxicology. 2020 Sep;80:60-70.

14. Holton KF, Kirkland AE, Baron M, Ramachandra SS, Langan MT, Brandley ET, Baraniuk JN. The Low Glutamate Diet Effectively Improves Pain and Other Symptoms of Gulf War Illness. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 26;12(9):2593.

15. Wang X, Xu Z, Zhao F, Lin KJ, Foster JB, Xiao T, Kung N, Askwith CC, Bruno JP, Valentini V, Hodgetts KJ, Lin CG.  Restoring tripartite glutamatergic synapses: A potential therapy for mood and cognitive deficits in Gulf War illness. Neurobiol Stress. 2020 Jul 13;13:100240.

16. Macht VA, Woodruff JL, Burzynski HE, Grillo CA, Reagan LP, Fadel JR. Interactions between pyridostigmine bromide and stress on glutamatergic neurochemistry: Insights from a rat model of Gulf War Illness. Neurobiol Stress. 2019 Dec 31;12:100210.

17. Gargas NM, Ethridge VT, Miklasevich MK, Rohan JG. Altered hippocampal function and cytokine levels in a rat model of Gulf Warillness. Life Sci. 2021 Jun 1;274:119333.

18. Torres-Altoro MI, Mathur BN, Drerup JM, Thomas R, Lovinger DM, O’Callaghan JP, Bibb JA. Organophosphates dysregulate dopamine signaling, glutamatergic neurotransmission, and induce neuronal injury markers in striatum. J Neurochem. 2011 Oct;119(2):303-13.

19. Schwartz GR. In Bad Taste: the MSG Syndrome. Santa Fe: Health Press, 1988.

20. Hashimoto S. Discovery and History of Amino Acid Fermentation.  Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol. 2017;159:15-34.

21. Sano C. History of glutamate production. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(3):728S-732S.

22. Market Research Store. Global Monosodium Glutamate Market Poised to Surge from USD 4,500.0 Million in 2014 to USD 5,850.0 Million by 2020.   (Accessed 5/29/2020)

23. Open PR Worldwide Public Relations for Verified Market. Global Flavor Enhancers Market.   (Accessed 5/29/2020)

24. Dataintelo. Global Food Flavor Enhancer Market Report, History and Forecast 2014-2025, Breakdown Data by Manufacturers, Key Regions, Types and Application.    (Accessed 5/29/2020)

25. Khan IA, Abourashed EA. Leung’s Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs, and cosmetics (Third Edition). New Jersey: Wily, 2010. Pp 452-455.


Table 2: Adverse reactions known to be caused from time to time by MSG and the other ingredients that contain MfG

Table 3: Names of ingredients that contain Manufactured free Glutamate (MfG)  (Updated May 2021)

Supplemental material

File 1. The Toxicity/Safety of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG): A Study in Suppression of Information

File 2. The Alleged Safety of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

File 3. Designed for Deception: The fail-safe way to ensure that their studies would conclude MSG is harmless

Consumer power! Yes!

Much has been written on what to eat. Doctors, nutritionists, and foodies of all stripes are more than happy to give their advice on healthy eating.

But here’s something we all should be aware of — the need to avoid eating toxic ingredients that can scramble your brain.

That should be a “no-brainer.” But right now, many of us are eating a known brain-damaging additive that is said to be “safe” by the FDA and has had untold millions of dollars invested in dispensing clever propaganda to reassure us that it is.

I’m talking about monosodium glutamate – MSG – the flavor enhancer you’ve been told is benign, natural and required to make your food taste yummy. It’s actually none of those things. The soothing words you hear about MSG come straight from one of the largest PR firms in the world, Edelman Public Relations, which has a long-term contract with the largest producer of the additive, Ajinomoto, to “set the record straight” on MSG.

Of course, that’s “their” record you’re hearing, sanitized to remove all of the bad things that have been discovered about MSG over the past 50-plus years. They are even hoping to plant a seed of doubt in your mind if you are among the growing numbers of those who already try to avoid the additive.

Here are a few examples of what Edelman/Ajinomoto aim to convince you are true about this toxic flavor enhancer:

It’s “natural.” MSG, they tell us, is found in many nutritious foods and gently extracted for your dining pleasure. The truth is, MSG is totally manmade, excreted from genetically modified bacteria in giant chemical plants. In the U.S. Ajinomoto manufactures the additive in its Eddyville, Iowa factory. It comes along with numerous impurities that industry has been unable to figure out how to remove.

It’s “safe.” That would be funny if it wasn’t of such a serious nature. Over the years L-glutamate, the essential or active ingredient in MSG, has been recognized by the scientific community to be neurotoxic, or brain-damaging when it accumulates in excess in the body. Excesses of this amino acid are also implicated in neurological diseases and conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS.

It’s “verified” by experts: The real story is that the “experts” referred to haven’t exactly “verified” anything. Industry concocts research protocols (some rather devious, such as swapping out innocuous placebos for ones that contain aspartic acid that will produce the same adverse reactions as the MSG test material), designed to prove MSG is safe, presenting the resulting studies to agencies such as the FDA where they are accepted with no questions asked. At one time the FDA collected adverse reaction reports on MSG, but stopped doing so years ago.

And if you think it sounds fishy that so much effort would be exerted to suppress the toxic nature of this widely used additive, know that this is a big-bucks business. The glutamate industry (yes, there’s a glutamate industry) watches over its prize product very carefully. Big Food benefits enormously by being able to manufacture cheaply made commodities that taste irresistible to consumers.

But there is a way you can help tip the balance in our favor.

Adrienne Samuels, co-founder of the Truth in Labeling Campaign, took the bold step of filing a Citizen Petition with the FDA in 2021, asking that MSG be stripped of its GRAS, or generally recognized as safe status. Being GRAS supports the house of cards Ajinomoto and others have constructed to protect their toxic white powder. MSG wouldn’t go away if it wasn’t GRAS, but its illusion of safety would.

You can be part of the movement to flex consumer muscle by commenting on this petition

Simply go to the link below and click on the blue “comment” button on the top left.  

Industry is watching us closely. Show them that we’re sick and tired of being fed poison and told it’s A-OK.

Searching for a cure while Big Food promotes the disease

As scientists struggle to find cures for autism, depression schizophrenia and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease, Big Food continues to pour more and more excitotoxic – brain damaging — free glutamate into flavor enhancers, fake proteins, infant formula and processed food.


The Jekyll and Hyde amino acid

There’s good glutamate and bad glutamate.  Everyone needs the glutamic acid (a.k.a. glutamate) that the human body has been creating in carefully controlled amounts since time began.  It’s a building block of protein.  It’s essential to life itself. 

But manufactured free glutamate is a different thing. It was invented in 1957, at which time mass production of manufactured free glutamate began.  And from that time forward, manufactured free glutamate has been easily available in foods, drinks, supplements and drugs, in the uncontrolled amounts that cause brain damage.

Amino acids did not cause brain damage before 1957.

Words of wisdom

“The fate of our brains lies in our food choices”

           Dr. David Perlmutter, April 23. 2023

Dr. Perlmutter is a Board-Certified Neurologist. and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, He serves as a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and has published extensively in peer-reviewed scientific journals including Archives of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and The Journal of Applied Nutrition. And he serves as an Associate Professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Dr. Perlmutter’s books have been published in 32 languages and include the #1 New York Times bestseller Grain Brain, The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar, with over 1 million copies in print. His latest book, Drop Acid, focuses on the pivotal role of uric acid in metabolic diseases, and was published in February 2022.  He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including: the Linus Pauling Award for his innovative approaches to neurological disorders; the National Nutritional Foods Association Clinician of the Year Award, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American College of Nutrition, and in 2019 the Global Leadership Award from the Integrative Healthcare Symposium.