Some basic truths about MSG toxicity that the people at NutritionFacts.org don’t seem to want you to know

A friend for whom I have the greatest respect is a big fan of Michael Greger M.D. FACLM. To hear her talk, you’d think he walked on water. Personally, I didn’t much care for his style of presentation, and he seemed somewhat shallow on matters I know a bit about. But with several best-selling books and posts with catchy headlines such as “Does Cholesterol Size Matter?” and “Eat More Calories in the Morning than the Evening,” he has a legion of followers.

The announcement that Dr. Greger was going to do a series of video posts on obesity, really caught my attention. I’ve been interested in obesity for over 50 years. That’s how long I’ve known that MSG causes obesity. And I was excited that Dr. Greger might be going to share facts about the toxic effects of MSG. How MSG causes a-fib, migraine headache, fibromyalgia, skin rash, seizures, infertility, brain damage and more, not just that it causes obesity.

My excitement, however, was short-lived. Seems that even suggesting that MSG might cause obesity isn’t on Dr. Greger’s agenda. How do I know? Because I went to great lengths to contact him and suggest that MSG-related obesity was something he should look into. And on May 5, 2020 Christine Kestner, MS, CNS, LDN (Health Support Volunteer) responded:

“Hi, Adrienne Samuels! You can find everything on this site related to MSG here: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/msg/ While it is true that this topic has not been updated in a while, a quick look at the lates research indicates that nothing has really changed in the last decade or so. We base our videos on the research, and not on industry influence. If you are aware of quality, peer-reviewed research that contradicts our positions, please share it with us.”

So, I did. I sent her pages of fully-referenced information. And then I waited. And waited. And then I sent a “You did get my letter, didn’t you?” note. And I’m still waiting.

Below is a copy of the material on MSG toxicity that Dr. Gregor ignored – or maybe Christine Kestner never showed it to him. Could be. Such is the power of the glutamate industry.

You’ll find the references for all this material at the end of the letter.

May 6, 2020

Thank you Christine,

The opportunity to provide accurate information about the toxicity of manufactured/processed free glutamate acid is much appreciated.

But first, two clarifications are in order. We generally speak of “MSG reactions,” but those reactions are actually caused by the Manufactured/processed free Glutamate (MfG) component of MSG. MfG is found in more than 40 food ingredients in addition to MSG. The animal studies listed below were done using MSG to inflict brain damage.

Second, glutamic acid will either be bound with other amino acids in protein or free. Bound glutamate does not cause brain damage or adverse reactions. Only glutamate in its free form causes brain damage and adverse reactions. This distinction is an important one, because failing to make it enables the fabrication of disinformation.

You said that a quick look at the latest research indicates that nothing has really changed in the last decade or so, but that is not entirely true.

I. MSG-induced brain damage. The seminal and definitive studies of MSG-inflicted brain damage were done in 1969 and the 1970s, and there is no need to replicate them.

In the late 60s, Olney became suspicious that obesity in mice, which was observed after neonatal mice were treated with L-glutamate for purposes of inducing and studying retinal pathology might be associated with hypothalamic lesions caused by L-glutamate treatment; and in 1969 he reported that L-glutamate treatment caused brain lesions, particularly acute neuronal necrosis in several regions of the developing brain of neonatal mice, and acute lesions in the brains of adult mice given 5 to 7 mg/g of glutamate subcutaneously (12). Research that followed confirmed that L-glutamate induces hypothalamic damage when given to immature animals after either subcutaneous (13-31) or oral (19,25-26,28,32-36) doses.

This work demonstrated that when there is a vulnerable target (a brain or portion of the brain that is unprotected or vulnerable to attack from toxins), and there is glutamic acid (glutamate) in quantity sufficient to cause it to become excitotoxic, glutamate fed in quantity to immature animals causes acute neuronal necrosis in several regions of the developing brain including the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, followed by behavior disturbances and endocrine disruption which includes obesity and infertility.

A recent review suggests that glutamate/MSG passed to fetuses and neonates by pregnant and/or lactating women causes brain damage, disrupting the endocrine system (99).

It will be argued by agents of the glutamate industry that these studies of brain damage were animal studies not human studies, and that is true. But studies wherein possible toxins are fed to pregnant women and brains of their offspring are examined would certainly be questionable at best on ethical and moral grounds. Researchers rely heavily on animal studies to suggest solutions to problems of human dysfunction.

II. Industry’s unfounded claims of MSG safety

From 1968 until approximately 1980, Ajinomoto mounted a vigorous attack to refute the studies that demonstrated MSG-induced brain damage. Beginning in 1968 and throughout the 1970s, glutamate-industry agents mounted alleged replications of independently done glutamate-induced brain damage studies, but their procedures were different enough to guarantee that toxic doses had not been administered, and/or that all evidence that neurons had died would be obscured. Industry-sponsored researchers claimed to be replicating studies, but did not do so (5).

When it could no longer be denied that animal studies showed that MSG caused brain damage in infant animals – when researchers were using models of MSG-induced obesity to study abnormalities associated with excess glutamate — industry interests decreed that studies done on animals did not reflect the human condition and were, therefore, meaningless.

Industry-sponsored human studies followed in the 1980s. None were studies of brain damage.

III. Availability of sufficient potentially excitotoxic manufactured/processed free glutamate (MfG) in food and elsewhere to cause MfG to become excitotoxic (to kill brain cells)

Evidence of MSG-induced neonatal brain damage has not changed in the last four decades, but availability of sufficient glutamate in the U.S. food supply to cause that glutamate to become excitotoxic has.

Prior to 1957, the date that Ajinomoto reformulated MSG, the amount of free glutamate in the average diet had been unremarkable. But in 1957 production of the free glutamate that makes up the excitotoxic ingredient in MSG changed from extraction of glutamate from a protein source, a slow and costly method, to a method of bacterial fermentation which enabled virtually unlimited production of free glutamate and MSG (7), and the large amounts of glutamate needed to cause excitotoxicity became widely available.

Shortly thereafter, food manufacturers found that profits could be increased by producing other flavor-enhancing additives that contained free glutamate. Over the next two decades, the marketplace became flooded with manufactured/processed free glutamate in ingredients such as hydrolyzed proteins, yeast extracts, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, and MSG (8). And ingredients that contained free glutamate became readily accessible.

There are no data on the amount of excitotoxic material in food. Analyses from Olney’s lab and others provided some insight into amounts of MSG in processed foods in the 1980s and 1990s (half a gram of MSG in certain canned soups, for example); and according to anecdotal reports from MSG-sensitive people, that would be enough to trigger an asthma attack or a migraine headache in some MSG-sensitive people. Reports from MSG-sensitive consumers also suggest that the amount of MfG in a single serving of processed food might be similar to that found in various cans of soup. None of this, however, speaks to the amount of MfG needed to produce either brain damage or adverse reactions.

Important to remember is the fact that it is not the amount of MfG in any one product that is pertinent to determining if there is sufficient MfG available to cause neonatal brain damage or adverse reactions. To cause neonatal brain damage, it is the amount of MfG consumed by a pregnant or lactating subject and passed to fetus and/or neonate that is relevant to determination of excitotoxicity.

IV. MSG-induced adverse reactions

There are few published reports of MSG-induced human adverse reactions. Funding for studies of the safety of MSG comes primarily from the glutamate industry, and only those industry-sponsored studies with negative results have been published.

Some years ago, Samuels compiled a list of studies wherein adverse reactions to MSG were noted (1-4, 175, 179-236). The article can be accessed at https://www.truthinlabeling.org/adverse.html .

No attempt has been made to identify all of the more recent studies. A PubMed search for “MSG-induced OR monosodium glutamate-induced AND toxicity” done on May 5, 2020 elicited 93 citations (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=MSG-induced+OR+monosodium+glutamate-induced+AND+toxicity).

V. Warnings

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.

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 flavor-enhancers has generally not being considered. But 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 (34-53).

VI. Suppression of information

The request to which I am responding was for quality peer-reviewed research that contradicts your positions. A list of those studies has been submitted with this letter.

Let me just mention that the videos you offered as the information on MSG safety came, directly or indirectly, from the glutamate-industry. The “update on MSG” is delivered by an unidentified person (as is “Is MSG Bad for You”) who speaks of scientific consensus and decades of research. The “scientific consensus” mentioned is the consensus of people brought together by Ajinomoto for the purpose of concluding that MSG is harmless. The “decades of research” were discussed earlier in this letter as negative studies that failed to demonstrate a clear and consistent relationship between MSG and adverse reactions. “Is MSG bad for you?” speaks only of consensus meetings. No sound scientific studies there. I would be happy to send you a link by email to my early notes on Williams and Woessner and on “the consensus meeting” should you have interest.

Equally important for you to appreciate are the studies that have been rigged by glutamate industry interests, and the tactics that have been used by glutamate-industry interests to promote sales of MSG. A 1999 published, peer-reviewed article speaks to that subject (101).

In addition, I have taken the liberty of enclosing the link to a file from my webpage titled “Designed for Deception.” Among other things, it details the tactics that Ajinomoto has used to rig its double-blind studies. (They stopped doing double-blind studies after we exposed the fact that they were lacing what they called “placebos” with aspartic acid, the excitotoxic amino acid used in aspartame. Aspartame and free aspartic acid cause the same brain damage and adverse reactions as those caused by MSG and free glutamic acid (32, 46, 102).

Additional reference

Neurobehav Toxicol. 1980 Summer;2(2):125-9.
Brain damage in mice from voluntary ingestion of glutamate and aspartate.
Olney JW, Labruyere J, de Gubareff T.

If there is anything else you would like me to provide to demonstrate that MSG kills brain cells and causes adverse reactions, please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Sincerely,

Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D.
Director
Truth in Labeling Campaign
Chicago, IL USA

truthlabeling@gmail.com
www.truthinlabeling.org

Reference used in this material

I. MSG-induced brain damage. The seminal and definitive studies of MSG-inflicted brain damage were done in 1969 and the 1970s, and there is no need to replicate them.

References

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

13. Olney JW, Ho OL, Rhee V. Cytotoxic effects of acidic and sulphur containing amino acids on the infant mouse central nervous system. Exp Brain Res. 1971;14(1):61-76.

14. Olney JW, Sharpe LG. Brain lesions in an infant rhesus monkey treated with monosodium glutamate. Science. 1969;166(903):386-388.

15. Snapir N, Robinzon B, Perek M. Brain damage in the male domestic fowl treated with monosodium glutamate. Poult Sci. 1971;50(5):1511-1514.

16. Perez VJ, Olney JW. Accumulation of glutamic acid in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus of the infant mouse following subcutaneous administration of monosodium glutamate. J Neurochem. 1972;19(7):1777-1782.

17. Arees EA, Mayer J. Monosodium glutamate-induced brain lesions: electron microscopic examination. Science. 1970;170(957):549-550.

18. Everly JL. Light microscopy examination of monosodium glutamate induced lesions in the brain of fetal and neonatal rats. Anat Rec. 1971;169(2):312.

19. Olney JW. Glutamate-induced neuronal necrosis in the infant mouse hypothalamus. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1971;30(1):75-90.

20. Lamperti A, Blaha G. The effects of neonatally-administered monosodium glutamate on the reproductive system of adult hamsters. Biol Reprod 1976;14(3):362-369.

21. Takasaki Y. Studies on brain lesion by administration of monosodium L-glutamate to mice. I. Brain lesions in infant mice caused by administration of monosodium L-glutamate. Toxicology. 1978;9(4):293-305

22. Holzwarth-McBride MA, Hurst EM, Knigge KM. Monosodium glutamate induced lesions of the arcuate nucleus. I. Endocrine deficiency and ultrastructure of the median eminence. Anat Rec. 1976;186(2):185-196.

23. Holzwarth-McBride MA, Sladek JR, Knigge KM. Monosodium glutamate induced lesions of the arcuate nucleus. II Fluorescence histochemistry of catecholamines. Anat Rec. 1976;186(2):197-205.

24. Paull WK, Lechan R. The median eminence of mice with a MSG induced arcuate lesion. Anat Rec. 1974;180(3):436.

25. Burde RM, Schainker B, Kayes J. Acute effect of oral and subcutaneous administration of monosodium glutamate on the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus in mice and rats. Nature. 1971;233(5314):58-60.

26. Olney JW, Sharpe LG, Feigin RD. Glutamate-induced brain damage in infant primates. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1972;31(3):464-488.

27. Abraham R, Doughtery W, Goldberg L, Coulston F. The response of the hypothalamus to high doses of monosodium glutamate in mice and monkeys: cytochemistry and ultrastructural study of lysosomal changes. Exp Mol Pathol.1971;15(1):43-60.

28. Burde RM, Schainker B, Kayes J. Monosodium glutamate: necrosis of hypothalamic neurons in infant rats and mice following either oral or subcutaneous administration. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1972;31(1):181.

29. Robinzon B, Snapir N, Perek M. Age dependent sensitivity to monosodium glutamate inducing brain damage in the chicken. Poult Sci. 1974;53(4):1539-1542.

30. Tafelski TJ. Effects of monosodium glutamate on the neuroendocrine axis of the hamster. Anat Rec. 1976;184(3):543-544.

31. Olney JW, Rhee V, DeGubareff T. Neurotoxic effects of glutamate on mouse area postrema. Brain Res. 1977;120(1):151-157.

32. Olney JW, Ho OL. Brain damage in infant mice following oral intake of glutamate, aspartate or cystine. Nature. 1970;227:609-611.

33. Lemkey-Johnston N, Reynolds WA. Nature and extent of brain lesions in mice related to ingestion of monosodium glutamate: a light and electron microscope study. J Neuropath Exp Neurol. 1974;33(1):74-97.

34. Takasaki, Y. Protective effect of mono- and disaccharides on glutamate-induced brain damage in mice. Toxicol Lett. 1979;4(3): 205-210.

35. Takasaki, Y. Protective effect of arginine, leucine, and preinjection of insulin on glutamate neurotoxicity in mice. Toxicol Lett. 1980;5(1):39-44.

36. Lemkey-Johnston, N, Reynolds WA. Nature and extent of brain lesions in mice related to ingestion of monosodium glutamate: a light and electron microscope study. J Neuropath Exp Neurol. 1974;33(1):74-97.

Reference

99. Samuels A. (2020). Dose dependent toxicity of glutamic acid: A review. International Journal of Food Properties. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10942912.2020.1733016

II. Industry’s unfounded claims of MSG safety

Reference

5. Samuels A. The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): a study in suppression of information. Accountability in Research.1999;6:259-310. https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/manuscript2.pdf Accessed 4/14/2020.

III. Availability of sufficient potentially excitotoxic manufactured/processed free glutamate (MfG) in food and elsewhere to cause MfG to become excitotoxic (to kill brain cells)

References

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

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

IV. MSG-induced adverse reactions

References

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2. Kenney, RA and Tidball, CS Human susceptibility to oral monosodium L-glutamate. Am J Clin Nutr.25:140-146,1972.

3. Kerr, G.R., Wu-Lee, M., El-Lozy, M., McGandy, R., and Stare, F. Food-symptomatologyquestionnaires: risks of demand-bias questions and population-biased surveys. In: Glutamic Acid: Advances in Biochemistry and Physiology Filer, L. J., et al., Eds. New York: Raven Press, 1979.

4. Schaumburg, H.H., Byck, R, Gerstl, R, and Mashman, J.H. Monosodium L-glutamate: its pharmacology and role in the Chinese restaurant syndrome. Science 163:826-828,1969.

175. Kwok, R.H.M. The Chinese restaurant syndrome. Letter to the editor. N Engl J Med 278: 796, 1968.

179. Schaumburg, H. Chinese-restaurant Syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1122, 1968.

180. McCaghren, T.J. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1123, 1968.

181. Menken, M. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278, 1123, 1968.

182. Migden, W. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1123, 1968.

183. Rath, J. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1123, 1968.

184. Beron, E.L. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1123, 1968.

185. Kandall, S.R. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1123, 1968.

186. Gordon, M.E., Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1123-1124, 1968.

187. Rose, E.K. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1123, 1968.

188. Davies, N.E. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med 278: 1124, 1968.

189. Schaumburg, H.H. and Byck, R. Sin cib-syn: accent on glutamate. N Engl J Med 279: 105, 1968.

190. Ambos, M., Leavitt, N.R., Marmorek, L., and Wolschina, S.B. Sin cib-syn: accent on glutamate. N Engl J Med 279: 105, 1968.

191. Schaumburg, H.H., Byck, R., Gerstl, R., and Mashman, J.H. Monosodium L-glutamate: its pharmacology and role in the Chinese restaurant syndrome. Science 163: 826-828, 1969.

192. Upton, A.R.M., and Barrows, H.S. Chinese-restaurant syndrome recurrence. N Engl J Med 286: 893-894, 1972

213. Gann, D. Ventricular tachycardia in a patient with the “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” Southern Medical J 70: 879-880, 1977.

214. Asnes, R.S. Chinese restaurant syndrome in an infant. Clin Pediat 19: 705-706, 1980.

215. Cochran, J.W., and Cochran A.H. Monosodium glutamania: the Chinese restaurant syndrome revisited. JAMA 252: 899, 1984.

216. Freed, D.L.J. and Carter, R. Neuropathy due to monosodium glutamate intolerance. Annals of Allergy 48: 96-97, 1982.

217. Ratner, D., Esmel, E., and Shoshani, E. Adverse effects of monosodium glutamate: a diagnostic problem. Israel J Med Sci 20: 252-253, 1984.

218. Squire, E.N. Jr. Angio-oedema and monosodium glutamate. Lancet 988, 1987.

219. Pohl, R., Balon, R., and Berchou, R. Reaction t chicken nuggets in a patient taking an MAOI. Am J Psychiatry 145: 651, 1988.

220. Reif-Lehrer, L. and Stemmermann, M.B. Correspondence: Monosodium glutamate intolerance in children. N Engl J Med 293: 1204-1205, 1975.

221. Andermann, F., Vanasse, M., and Wolfe, L.S. Correspondence: Shuddering attacks in children: essential tremor and monosodium glutamate. N Engl J Med 295: 174, 1975.

222. Reif-Lehrer, L. Letter: A search for children with possible MSG intolerance. Pediatrics 58: 771-772, 1976.

223. Reif-Lehrer, L. A questionnaire study of the prevalence of chinese restaurant syndrome. Fed Proc36:1617-1623, 1977.

224. Reif-Lehrer, L. Possible significance of adverse reactions to glutamate in humans. Federation Proceedings 35: 2205-2211, 1976. 225. Colman, A.D. Possible psychiatric reactions to monosodium glutamate. N Engl J Med 299: 902, 1978.

226. Neumann, H.H. Soup? It may be hazardous to your health. Am Heart J 92:, 266, 1976.

227. Gore, M.E., and Salmon, P.R. Chinese restaurant syndrome: fact or fiction. Lancet 1(8162): 251, 1980.

228. Sauber, W.J. What is Chinese restaurant syndrome? Lancet 1(8170): 721-722, 1980.

229. Allen, D.J., and Baker, G.J. Chinese-restaurant asthma. N Engl J Med 305: 1154-1155, 1981.

230. Allen, D.H., Delohery, J., & Baker, G.J. Monosodium L-glutamate-induced asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 80: No 4, 530-537, 1987.

231. Moneret-Vautrin, D.A. Monosodium glutamate – induced asthma: Study of the potential risk in 30 asthmatics and review of the literature. Allergic et Immunologie 19: No 1, 29-35, 1987.

232. Smith, J.D., Terpening, C.M., Schmidt, S.O.F., and Gums, J.G. Relief of fibromyalgia symptonsfollowoing discontinuation of dietary excitotoxins. The Annals of Pharmacoltherapy. 35: (6) 702-706.

233. Scopp, A.L. MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein induced headache: review and case studies. Headache. 31:107-110, 1991.

234. Martinez, F. et al. Neuroexcitatory amino acid levels in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid during migraine attacks. Cephalalgia. 13: 89-93, 1993.

235. Scopp, A. Personal communication. June 17, 2002.

236. He K, Zhao L, Daviglus ML, et al. Association of Monosodium Glutamate Intake With Overweight in Chinese Adults: The INTERMAP Study. Obesity. 16(8): 1875-1880, 2008. Epub 2008 May 22.

V. Warnings

References

34. Hermanussen M, Tresguerres JA. Does high glutamate intake cause obesity? J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2003;16(7):965-8.

35. Hermanussen M, García AP, Sunder M, Voigt M, Salazar V, Tresguerres JA. Obesity, voracity, and short stature: the impact of glutamate on the regulation of appetite. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006;60(1):25-31.

36. Stover JF, Kempski OS. Glutamate-containing parenteral nutrition doubles plasma glutamate: a risk factor in neurosurgical patients with blood-brain barrier damage? Crit Care Med. 1999;27(10):2252-6.

37. Castrogiovanni D, Gaillard RC, Giovambattista A, Spinedi E. Neuroendocrine, metabolic, and immune functions during the acute phase response of inflammatory stress in monosodium Lglutamate-damaged, hyperadipose male rat. Neuroendocrinology. 2008;88(3):227-34.

38. Gill SS, Mueller RW, McGuire PF, Pulido OM. Potential target sites in peripheral tissues for excitatory neurotransmission and excitotoxicity. Toxicol Pathol. 2000;28(2):277-84.

39. Zautcke JL, Schwartz JA, Mueller EJ. Chinese restaurant syndrome: a review. Ann Emerg Med. 1986;15(10):1210-3.

40. Hermanussen M, Tresguerres JA. How much glutamate is toxic in paediatric parenteral nutrition? Acta Paediatr. 2005;94(1):16-9.

41. Nakanishi Y, Tsuneyama K, Fujimoto M, Salunga TL, Nomoto K, An JL, Takano Y, Iizuka S, Nagata M, Suzuki W, Shimada T, Aburada M, Nakano M, Selmi C, Gershwin ME. Monosodium glutamate (MSG): a villain and promoter of liver inflammation and dysplasia. J Autoimmun. 2008;30(1-2):42-50.

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43. Niaz K, Zaplatic E, Spoor J. Extensive use of monosodium glutamate: A threat to public health? EXCLI J. 2018;17:273-278.

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VI. Suppression of information

Reference

101. Samuels A. The Toxicity/Safety of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG): A study in Suppression of Information. Accountability in Research.1999(6):259-310 (https://bit.ly/2P4ICtd).

The food industry helped get us where we are today. Now it’s profiteering on the results.

It’s something we’ve all heard before: Those at the highest risk of a severe reaction or death from a COVID-19 infection have an “underlying condition.”

And the top “condition,” as it turns out, is obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released results from a study last month that examined those who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in 99 counties across 14 states, and the results are staggering. Close to 60 percent in the 18-49 group involved those who were obese. For people 50-64, obesity was the underlying condition for nearly 50 percent who were hit hard, along with 41 percent of patients 65 and over.

While it’s hardly news that obesity, especially in America, is so widespread it’s now referred to as an “epidemic,” many experts seem to have just realized that the food industry has been working for a very long time to make its ultra-processed foods considered normal eating options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Some, such as UK cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, are going so far as to say that if health authorities don’t warn citizens to change the way they eat, it would constitute “negligence and ignorance.” 

Professor Tim Spector, an expert in genetic epidemiology at King’s College in London remarked that “Obesity and poor diet is emerging as one of the biggest risk factors for a severe response to COVID-19 infection that can no longer be ignored.”

And Professor Robert Listig, from the University of California commented on the CDC report by saying that “ultra-processed food sets you up for inflammation,” which is something COVID-19 is “happy to exploit.”

But as they say, talk is cheap. What isn’t, however, is how much money Big Food spends to make sure that these stockpiles of processed products that have undermined our health so much keep on selling. And despite what that CDC report revealed, ultra-processed, obesity-spawning foods are flying off the shelves faster than ever before.

A distressing comfort

At one time, comfort foods used to constitute mom’s mac and cheese, homemade mashed potatoes or a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies fresh out of the oven. Now it appears that our eating habits have deteriorated to the point where many of the hundreds of New York Times readers commenting on an article titled “‘I Just Need the Comfort’: Processed Foods Make a Pandemic Comeback,” are arguing the vital need to consume unlimited amounts of Velveeta, canned pasta and “cheese” that comes from a can.

For Big Food, it’s likely a sales dream come true.

General Mills reported that sales are up “across-the-board” during the last month, including packaged dinner mixes such as Hamburger Helper, described by a spokesman as a “simple and delicious meal.”

Conagra Brands saw a 50 percent increase for products such as Slim Jim and Chef Boyardee canned pastas during March. Kraft/Heinz now needs to keep some factories working three shifts just to keep cranking out enough boxed macaroni and cheese, with Campbell’s soup sales jumping almost 60 percent from where they were a year ago.

And Impossible Foods, which makes the additive filled, ultra-processed fake meat called the “Impossible Burger,” has been able to use this pandemic to get its products into 777 more grocery stores in the U.S.

If, as many experts are saying, the threat posed by COVID-19 will be with us for quite a while — even gaining tragic traction in the fall — now is the time to make sure you’re in fighting shape. And judging from the CDC’s research, it appears that can best be started right in your kitchen.

Linda Bonvie

Linda Bonvie is journalist, blogger and co-author of “A Consumer’s Guide to Toxic Food Additives: How to avoid synthetic sweeteners, MSG, artificial colors, and more,” Skyhorse Publishing, March 2020.

Warning! Yeast extract contains the same excitotoxic free glutamate as that in MSG

There’s a world of writers who turn out propaganda pieces on the safety of MSG. They’re much like the “researchers” who authored the MSG-is-safe studies for the International Glutamate Technical Committee in the 1990s. These were individuals with little or no obvious connection to one another, affiliated with variety of universities and medical schools, who had no history of studying the safety of MSG and had no misgivings about using excitotoxic aspartame in their placebos.

So, it’s only natural to wonder if John Moody’s article “Yeast Extract: Not MSG But Is It Safe?” in The Healthy Home Economist was designed to be MSG-is-safe propaganda. It sure looked that way, but it also sent a warning to consumers that yeast extract contains the same toxic free glutamate that’s in MSG.

To understand the toxicity of yeast extract, you have to understand the basics of toxic glutamate found in food.

Glutamate must be free to be harmful, meaning it can’t exist as part of a protein. And toxic free glutamate found in food will always have been manufactured.

You can make/produce free glutamate (glutamate outside of protein) using carefully selected genetically modified bacteria. Feed the bacteria on some starchy stuff like sugar, and they secrete glutamate through their cell walls. That’s pretty much how the glutamate in MSG is made in Ajinomoto’s plant in Eddyville Iowa.

You can also free glutamate from protein. Begin with something that contains protein — almost any meat, grain, diary product, fruit or vegetable will contain at least some small amount of glutamate. Then, choose your method: 1) extract glutamate from protein, 2) use hydrolysis, autolysis, enzymes, acids or fermentation to break protein into individual amino acids (which would include glutamate), or apply high heat to protein.

All glutamate made/produced by man plus that which has been fermented contains D-glutamate, pyroglutamate and other unwanted by-products of manufacture (impurities which industry has been unable to remove) as well as the desired L-glutamate. In contrast, the glutamate in unadulterated fruits, grains, vegetables, and in the human body, which wouldn’t be manufactured, is L-glutamate only.

To be toxic, free glutamate has to 1) be present in excess – more than the healthy body needs for normal body function, or 2) act as a neurotransmitter, overstimulating and damaging glutamate receptors for some weak area in an individual’s body, the heart, lungs, or stomach for example.

Yeast extract contains toxic free glutamate.

Yeast extract contributes to accumulation of toxic free glutamate in two ways. First, yeast extract itself will contain toxic free glutamate. Moreover, yeast and yeast extract can also interact with other ingredients, causing the protein in those other ingredients to break down and release glutamate.

The way that the yeast extract is produced will vary from one manufacturer to another, but all break the protein found in yeast into free amino acids – one of which will be glutamate. Following are various descriptions of how that’s done:

1: Food Navigator-asia.com: https://www.foodnavigator-asia.com/Article/2019/09/25/Clean-label-less-sodium-and-vegan-Yeast-extract-specialist-company-Angel-Yeast-names-three-mega-trends-driving-the-industry#

“Angel Yeast’s yeast extract products are obtained from molasses-cultured yeast, which are autolyzed to obtain the extract and made into pastes or powders.”

2: European Association for Specialty Yeast Products:
http://www.yeastextract.info/yeast-extract/how-it-s-made

“Yeast extract is … made from natural bakers’ or brewers’ yeast. First sugar is added so that the yeast can multiply. Then enzymes in the yeast break down the proteins present in the yeast into smaller components and make the cell walls permeable. Finally the components present in the yeast cell – the yeast extract – are separated from the surrounding wall and dried.”

3: Biospringer: https://biospringer.com/en/explore-yeast-extract/yeast-extract/production-process/

“Yeast is a microscopic unicellular fungus that has been living on Earth for millions of years. Like any other cell, yeast is made of proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals gathered within the cell walls.”

“Yeast extract is simply the yeast content without the cell wall, making it a natural origin ingredient. Its production consists of 3 main steps:

Fermentation
Breaking of the yeast cell (also known as autolysis)
Separation”

4: By Elea Carey for Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-yeast-extract-bad-for-me#1″ https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-yeast-extract-bad-for-me#1

“There are two kinds of yeast extract, autolyzed and hydrolyzed. In both, the cell walls are discarded and the contents of the cell are combined. In autolyzed yeast, the enzymes found in the yeast itself are used to break down the proteins. In hydrolyzed yeast, these enzymes are added to the yeast.”

Does yeast extract contain enough free glutamate to cause brain damage or adverse reactions?

If yeast extract was the only source of free glutamate ingested, toxicity would depend on the amount of free glutamate in the particular product ingested, and the sensitivity of the person ingesting it. There are glutamate-sensitive people who react to yeast extract.

But in real life one helping of yeast extract isn’t going to be ingested in isolation. Combined with other sources of glutamate in the diet, yeast extract increases the likelihood of brain damage and adverse reactions.

About MSG-is-safe propaganda

John Moody’s article fits the present propaganda model perfectly. It doesn’t shout out that MSG is harmless, but in several sections feel-good words are paired with the words glutamate, MSG or umami.

“Why we love glutamate”
“the presence of natural glutamates”
“Glutamates… trigger a response in our brains that make us enjoy our food.”
“Glutamates don’t just taste good, they ARE good”
“essential for life itself”
“…glutamates are naturally occurring in a wide range of foods, especially if fermented or slowly cooked or simmered. Also, traditional cultures sometimes prepared foods in such a way to purposefully INCREASE the concentration of glutamates. Clearly, ancestral societies recognized the benefits of natural glutamate in the diet.”

And then there are even more clever sections that the casual reader might think speak of the hazards of glutamates, but actually minimize them: 1) it would be unnatural to ingest too much MSG; 2) it’s processed foods that are the problem if there is one, not MSG; 3) there are a few risks associated with ingestion of MSG, but lots of foods can cause them, and 4) natural forms of glutamates are not a concern.

And finally, at the end of the paper, where psychologists say it will have the longest lasting impression, are the words, “For healthy individuals, glutamates play a vital role both in good health and good hearth (food).”

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

What do some vaccines have in common with plant-based protein substitutes?

Hint: When you get just a little it can cause a-fib, tachycardia, asthma, migraines, seizures and more.

Hint: When you get more than a little, it causes brain damage. (And you won’t notice losing just a few brain cells at a time.)

Send you answers to truthlabeling@gmail.com

All those who answer correctly will receive a link to a free download of the book “It Wasn’t Alzheimer’s, It was MSG.”

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. If you have hints for others on how to avoid exposure to MfG, send them along, too, and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Or you can reach us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter @truthlabeling.

Fact Checked?

People send us all kinds of articles, sometimes for information, sometimes to comment on. livestrong.com is one we’ve been seeing a lot of lately. Livestrong is the perfect venue for MSG-is-safe misinformation.

Every article about MSG has a certain sameness. Most important to industry is that the message you get, even if you don’t notice it, will be that MSG is perfectly safe. Sometimes the article will point out that MSG has gotten “a bad rap.” That was very popular for a while. Sometimes the story line revolves around there being less sodium in MSG than in table salt. That’s still circulating widely and is even mentioned in “The verdict on MSG: is it really safe to eat and where is it lurking?” one of the recent articles at livestrong.com.

To be effective, an article just has to make you think that MSG might be a safe food additive. It just has to make you doubt that MSG causes reactions you can see like obesity and migraine headache. The brain damage that can’t be confirmed unless an autopsy is done will never be mentioned.

“Everything You Need to Know About Food Ingredients and Additives” and the article it links to, “The Verdict on MSG: Is it really safe to eat and where is it lurking?” serve up lots of facts from various “authorities.” The hook is the claim that what they write is “fact checked” or “reviewed” before it is published. You, the reader, are supposed to believe you’re about to read something of merit that’s been meticulously researched. But behind the check mark link next to the words ‘Fact Checked’ is concealed the information that “fact checked” only means that “we’ve confirmed the information cited in it comes from reputable primary sources.” So, Ajinomoto, the company that produces MSG would be a reliable source for information on MSG, as would be their collaborators at the International Food Information Council, which has worked for them for years. And checking the truth of what is written is not considered.

A quick scan of the two articles we looked at suggested that all of their “experts” came through the glutamate industry. And when we looked a bit closer, it became obvious that neither authors April Benshosan nor Tiffany Ayuda, did any research of their own, but took material from Ajinomoto or one of its public relations firms and added some background material. Or maybe these ladies didn’t write the pair of articles at all. A simple Google search of “monosodium glutamate toxicity” turned up articles citing MSG toxicity by Niaz, Hyndman, Husarova, Nnadozie, Kayode and others who weren’t mentioned in the Livestrong.com articles. And authors Tiffany Ayuda and April Benshosan sure didn’t go to the website of the National Library of Medicine where “monosodium glutamate AND toxic” turned up 242 articles.

We checked out some of their “experts.” In 1990 the International Food Information Council (IFIC) was employed by Ajinomoto (producer of MSG) to scuttle, or do damage control, for the anticipated 60 Minutes program on MSG. Besides doing odd jobs for Ajinomoto, IFIC often parrots the disinformation that MSG is made by the same process used to produce beer, yogurt and sourdough bread. Actually, MSG is made using carefully selected genetically modified bacteria that secrete glutamate through their cell walls. Beer, yogurt and sourdough bread aren’t made that way. Tiffany Ayuda listed IFIC three times as a resource.

Mayo Clinic was used as the reference for “researchers haven’t been able to find a reliable link between MSG and allergy.” Taking things out of context is a specialty of the Glutes. The fact is that the reaction to MSG isn’t an allergic reaction. It’s a reaction to a poison. Allergic reactions are IgE mediated. Reactions to poisons are not. So, no informed person would dream that there would be a link between MSG and allergy. But the casual reader may not know that, and the sound bite makes good propaganda.

Bonnie Gaub-Dix, author of “Read it before you eat it” is quoted as saying that “MSG has been around or centuries…it is safe to consume…” But if they’d done their homework, Tiffany Ayuda and April Benshosan would have known that MSG was only invented around 1908, at which time it was made by extraction of glutamate from a protein source, with production of MSG limited by its slow and costly method. And they would have known that in 1957 Ajinomoto began producing the glutamate in MSG using genetically modified bacteria that excreted glutamate through their cell walls. And that it was only after there were sufficient quantities of glutamate in the food supply to cause that glutamate to become excitotoxic (killing brain cells), that the world began seeing MSG-induced reactions such as a-fib, seizures, and migraine headache – and behavior dysfunction, obesity and infertility caused by the brain damage that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye.

Women’s & Children’s Hospital (which one we don’t know) is another interesting resource. It’s strange that it is not included in the list of references following the article. It is also strange to find some allegedly authoritative source listing hydrolyzed and autolyzed products as containing MSG. They contain glutamate, the same toxic ingredient found in MSG, but they don’t contain the ingredient MSG. Wherever the list came from, it didn’t come from someone who had carefully researched MSG.

And then there’s the predictable industry clincher: “Researchers haven’t been unable to find a definite link between these symptoms and MSG.” (Just for fun, note the Freudian slip, “Unable.”)

Why predictable? Because every article put out by industry must deliver the message that MSG is harmless. And psychologists will tell you that what comes at the very beginning or at the very end of a story has the greatest impact.

Big Food has some big plans for you. Here’s how to fight back!

At a time when gathering provisions to feed your family has become an unprecedented challenge, the matter of what is in that food seems to have taken a back seat. And don’t think Big Food isn’t well aware of that.

That’s why a book like A Consumer’s Guide to Toxic Food Additives (Skyhorse Publishing, March, 2020) by longtime health and environmental journalists Linda and Bill Bonvie couldn’t be timelier.

This well-researched and fully updated book makes clear the kinds of processed foods we’ve gotten into the habit of consuming – and which are now being labeled as indispensable “comfort foods” – are just the kinds that can be lowering our ability to resist illness, be it COVID-19, the flu or any number of other opportunist infections. And that’s in addition to many of the devastating diseases we’ve grown to accept as “normal” such as diabetes and dementia, along with a variety of auto-immune illnesses.

First, however, let’s take a brief look at how industry is using this deadly pandemic to make sure we keep buying its products. There is no crisis, big or small, that Big Food isn’t ready, willing and able to take advantage of.

Gotcha!

What could tug at your heartstrings more than a little girl quarantined with her loving dad who misses her mom and grandma? That’s the “spin” the Uncle Ben’s brand (owned by Mars) is now using in its commercials. Yes, the spot is endearing, and it will keep plenty of consumers focused on “grandma’s recipe” and the difficulties of isolation instead of the many chemical additives in Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice mixes – including some you’ll find covered in A Consumer’s Guide.

Kraft/Heinz, another mega-multinational that makes billions churning out ultra-processed foods such as Lunchables, Ore-Ida, Kool-Aid and Velveeta, has adopted a rallying cry incorporated in its new commercials for this pandemic of “We Got You America.” Yes, they certainly do.

Post Cereal, makers of Fruity Pebbles (which comes with five artificial colors and the preservative BHA – more additives covered in the book), has started providing kids with daily videos to help “ignite” their “creativity, imagination, happiness and sense of exploration in every bowl of Pebbles.”

And Impossible Foods, makers of the impossibly additive filled, ultra-processed fake meat products such as the “Impossible Burger,” has been able to use this crisis to maneuver its goods into a trifecta of 777 additional grocery stores around the U.S.

All of these brands, and many, many more, are running creative spots produced by some of the best and brightest advertising minds in the land, all hoping to craftily convince you that ingredients don’t matter. Unfortunately, most of these processed foods contain additives that make them basically unfit for human consumption.

While A Consumer’s Guide only covers 13 of the many toxic food additives in use, they are, in fact, a baker’s dozen of what you’re most likely to find in today’s processed products. It tells you not just why you need to avoid them, but how to as well.

Along with aspartame, artificial colors, fluoride (yes, it’s an additive), and genetically modified ingredients (also additives), the book covers some lesser known issues such as what commercial fats will be taking the place of partially hydrogenated oils, what preservative is linked to impaired immune function and how the media is easily manipulated to sell products under the guise of “news.”

It’s certainly a cliché, but still true: Knowledge is power. And when you’re up against Big Food and all of its resources you need all the power you can get.

A Consumer’s Guide to Toxic Food Additives can be purchased here:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/consumers-guide-to-toxic-food-additives-linda-bonvie/113273321
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