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Understanding brain damage and endocrine disorders caused by MSG

MSG is a neurotoxin, potentially toxic to everyone -- potentially toxic even to those people who do not respond with adverse reactions such as migraine headache, asthma, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, disorientation, and depression. We know that MSG kills brain cells in laboratory animals. We know this from studies wherein MSG was given in food and from studies were MSG was given in drinking water. We know that MSG causes macular degeneration (retinal degeneration). We know that in one well done 2002 study (Ohguro, H., Katsushima, H., Maruyama, I., Maeda, T., Yanagihashi, S. Metoki, T., Nakazawa, M. A high dietary intake of sodium glutamate as flavoring (Ajinomoto) causes gross changes in retinal morphology and function. Experimental Eye Research 75:(3),2002.) no retinal damage was observed when MSG was fed to laboratory animals for a short period of time (a month), but that as time during which MSG was fed to those animals increased to 3 months and 6 months, there was observable damage.  (We must, therefore, postulate that damage done by repeated exposure to MSG is cumulative.) We know that learning disabilities and endocrine disorders such as gross obesity and reproductive disorders often follow the death of brain cells in animals. We also know that very young children (whose blood-brain barriers may not be fully developed) and the elderly are most at risk from the toxic effects of MSG.

Relevant to the toxic effects of MSG on the elderly (whose weakened blood-brain barriers would be less able to keep excess amounts of MSG from getting into the brain), there is sound science that suggests that the glutamic acid in MSG may act as a "slow neurotoxin," not resulting in observable damage such as dementia until years after the MSG was ingested.  The work of Dr. Peter Spencer is particularly relevant.

To counter the research of independent neuroscientists, the glutamate industry sponsored animal studies that essentially looked for brain lesions at the wrong time, in the wrong place, using inappropriate procedures. Based on this seemingly fraudulent research, they claimed that they had demonstrated that MSG does not cause brain lesions. However, by 1980, the fact that glutamic acid causes brain lesions in laboratory animals was undeniable; and the glutamate industry changed its defense of the "safety" of MSG to the claim that studies of animals are irrelevant to humans.

MSG-induced brain lesions in the area of the hypothalamus and/or accumulations of glutamic acid have been shown to cause each of the following:

Retinal degeneration

Neuroendocrine disorders


Reproductive disorders

Stunted growth

Behavior disorders

Learning and memory disorders


In addition, there is a copious literature on addiction, stroke, epilepsy, degenerative disorders (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and ALS, for example), brain trauma, neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression, seemingly diverse disease processes of the central nervous system that appear to be associated with the "glutamate cascade."
Addiction, stroke, epilepsy, degenerative disorders, brain trauma, neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression -- all associated with the "glutamate cascade."

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This page was last updated on August 16, 2004.