Giving credit where credit is due: Writers engaged in spreading the Glutes’ propaganda and the outlets that enable them

The fiction that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a harmless food additive has several key components:

  • Rigged studies and bold-faced lies.
  • A vigorous PR effort (currently being conducted by Daniel J. Edelman Public Relations).
  • Paid media, in the form of “sponsored” content (that you may not realize is bought and paid for).
  • “Earned” media – meaning legitimate journalists with access to top-tier outlets (think Wall Street Journal) who have been enlisted to write up articles that look and sound like real news, but are simply industry’s messaging done in the “voice” of the publication. This method also works with celebrities (especially chefs), bloggers and anyone else who has a big social media following.

And if you think that the flood of glutamate-industry propaganda has been torrential lately, you’re absolutely right. Ajinomoto, the world’s largest manufacturer of monosodium glutamate, is in the middle of a 10-million-dollar PR blitz (according to Ajinomoto), to “persuade Americans that MSG is safe—and maybe even good for you…”

We can’t always say for sure who is responsible for spreading the Glutes’ words so far and wide, but it seems only appropriate to share the names of some of the authors and outlets that enable them. For more about glutamate-industry propaganda, look here and here.

Rachael Ray Every Day, May, 2019
“Surprise: MSG Has Been Completely Safe to Eat All This Time”
Author: Hillary Maglin
https://www.rachaelraymag.com/whats-new/why-msg-is-safe-to-eat

BBC future, May, 2019
“The man who discovered umami”
Author: Veronique Greenwood
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190503-the-mystery-taste-that-always-eluded-us

BBC Future, November, 2015
Is MSG as bad as it’s made out to be?
Author: Bianca Nogrady
www.bbc.com/future/story/20151106-is-msg-as-bad-as-its-made-out-to-be\

The Wall Street Journal, April, 2019
“The FDA Says It’s Safe, So Feel Free to Say ‘Yes’ to MSG”
Author: River Davis
https://www.wsj.com/articles/rescuing-msgs-unsavory-reputation-11556337610

WebMD, February, 2019
“Is MSG really so bad?”
Author: Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
https://blogs.webmd.com/food-fitness/20190219/is-msg-really-so-bad

Lifehacker Skillet, January, 2019
“Put MSG in everything, you cowards”
Author: Claire Lower
https://skillet.lifehacker.com/put-msg-in-everything-you-cowards-1831721707

Men’s Health, January, 2019
“Is MSG Bad for You? No – and Here’s Why”
Author: Chris Mohr, Ph.D, RD
https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a26006305/msg-not-bad-for-you/

fivethirtyeight, January, 2016
How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia
Author: Anna Maria Barry-Jester
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-msg-got-a-bad-rap-flawed-science-and-xenophobia/

Decoding Delicious, March, 2013
What is MSG, and is it safe to eat? –
Author: Amanda Green
www.decodingdelicious.com/what-is-msg/

Lifehacker, December, 2018
“Stop being afraid of MSG”
Author: Beth Skwarecki
https://vitals.lifehacker.com/stop-being-afraid-of-msg-1831011967

Esquire, October, 2018
“It’s time for America to fall back in love with MSG”
Author: Joanna Rothkopf
https://www.esquire.com/food-drink/food/a23566452/its-time-for-america-to-fall-back-in-love-with-msg/

The Seattle Times, October, 2018
“Avoiding MSG? Look beyond the myths”
Author: Carrie Dennett
https://www.seattletimes.com/life/wellness/avoiding-msg-look-beyond-the-myths/

Berkeley Wellness, October, 2018
“Is MSG Safe?”
Author: Keng Lam MD
https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food-safety/article/msg-safe

US News & World Report, October, 2018
“Scientists Have Known MSG is Safe for Decades. Why Don’t Most Americans?”
Author: Toby Amidor
https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2018-10-10/scientists-have-known-msg-is-safe-for-decades-why-dont-most-americans

Business Insider, August, 2014
Is MSG Sodium In Chinese Food Safe To Eat?
Author: Kevin Loria
https://www.businessinsider.com/is-msg-sodium-in-chinese-food-safe-to-eat-2014-8

Business Insider, February, 2017
Everyone should cook with MSG, says food scientist
Author: Gus Lubin
https://www.businessinsider.com/cooking-with-msg-supersalt-2017-2

BuzzFeed, August, 2013
The Notorious MSG’s Unlikely Formula For Success
Author: John Mahoney
https://www.buzzfeed.com/johnmahoney/the-notorious-msgs-unlikely-formula-for-success

Slate, May, 2006
Could MSG make a comeback?
Author: Sarah Dickerman
https://slate.com/human-interest/2006/05/could-msg-make-a-comeback.html

Reader’s Digest, August, 2018
“What is MSG – and how bad is it, really?
Author: Denise Mann, MS
https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/what-is-msg-and-how-bad-is-it-really/

Blog: MyFitnessPal, September, 2016
Is MSG Safe?
Author: Monica Reinagel
https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/is-msg-safe/

Skeptical Raptor, July, 2018
“MSG myth – debunked with real science”
https://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/msg-myth-versus-science/

Self, June, 2018
“We all really need to stop freaking out about MSG”
Author: Yvette d’Entremont
https://www.self.com/story/we-all-really-need-to-stop-freaking-out-about-msg

The Guardian, May, 2018
“Chinese restaurant syndrome: has MSG been unfairly demonized?”
Author: Joanna Blythman
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/may/21/chinese-restaurant-syndrome-has-msg-been-unfairly-demonised

The Guardian, July 2005
If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?
Author: Alex Renton
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/jul/10/foodanddrink.features3

Financial Times, May, 2015
OMG I love MSG
Author: Tim Hayward
Not available online

Smithsonian.com, November, 2013
It’s the Umami, Stupid. Why the Truth About MSG is So Easy to Swallow
Author: Natasha Geiling
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/its-the-umami-stupid-why-the-truth-about-msg-is-so-easy-to-swallow-180947626/

We’ve merely skimmed the surface of what’s out there. If other articles catch your eye, please send their links to us at questionsaboutmsg@gmail.com, or post them on our Facebook page. We like to give credit where credit is due.

The contrived controversy over MSG-safety

If you Google “monosodium glutamate” and the word “controversy,” you come up with over 800,000 results. Does that mean there are legitimate opposing viewpoints about whether monosodium glutamate is safe or not – a true controversy?

Clearly there are two sides to every story, and we should be told both. But when the side claiming “controversy” offers nothing more than rigged research, name calling, and out and out lies, what they’re delivering is more akin to propaganda than it is to controversy. And in the case of MSG-safety, that’s all there is. There is no honest MSG-is-safe science. There are no scrupulous studies that demonstrate that MSG is a “harmless” food additive.

So if you’re wondering where the “facts” about MSG-safety are coming from, we have listed some of the arguments on which those ”facts” are based:

Purported evidence that MSG is a harmless food additive:

  1. Animal studies that falsely claimed to be replications of studies demonstrating brain damage in laboratory animals.
  2. The argument that animal studies demonstrating MSG-toxicity are invalid, because animals do not represent the human condition.
  3. The lie that humans can’t eat enough manufactured free glutamate (MfG) to cause the brain damage, endocrine disorders, and assorted reactions that laboratory animals experienced in the 1960s and 1970s – a claim that is particularly interesting in light of industry claims one and two above.
  4. Human studies that have nothing to do with MSG safety
  5. Human double-blind studies rigged to concluded that research has failed to demonstrated that monosodium glutamate or MfG had toxic potential. Lacing placebo materials used in those studies with an excitotoxic amino acid that causes the same reactions as caused by MSG (the aspartic acid in aspartame) has been just one of the many devices used to facilitate industry’s claim that “research has failed to demonstrated that L-glutamate has toxic potential.”

Bold-faced lies, including:

6. Glutamate contained in MSG is identical to glutamate in the human body.

7. MSG is very well researched and has been found to be safe.

8. MSG must be safe since the FDA has said so.

9. MSG has been used for over a century without adverse reactions.

10. MSG is naturally made, similar to yogurt, vinegar and wine.

11. Monosodium glutamate occurs naturally in food.

12. Humans can’t eat enough manufactured free glutamic acid (MfG) to cause the brain damage, endocrine disorders, and assorted reactions that the laboratory animals experienced.

And all this is packaged by the largest independently owned PR firm in the world, Daniel J. Edelman Public Relations (now working for Ajinomoto, the largest manufacturer of monosodium glutamate in the world). Edelman is reported to have told employees that “Sometimes, you just have to stand up there and lie. Make the audience or the reporter believe that everything is OK.”

Is “controversial” the right term to describe a situation where one side tells the truth about a subject while the opposing side resorts to rigging research, calling names, and telling lies?

About MSG-toxicity, there really is no controversy.

RESOURCES

Data
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/data.html

Brain lesions, obesity, and other disturbances in mice treated with monosodium glutamate.
Olney JW. Science. 1969 May 9;164(3880):719-21. PMID: 5778021
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5778021

Excitotoxic food additives–relevance of animal studies to human safety.
Olney JW. Neurobehav Toxicol Teratol. 1984 Nov-Dec;6(6):455-62. Review. PMID: 6152304
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6152304

Brain damage in mice from voluntary ingestion of glutamate and aspartate.
Olney JW, Labruyere J, de Gubareff T. Neurobehav Toxicol. 1980 Summer;2(2):125-9. PMID: 7290308
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7290308

Brain damage and oral intake of certain amino acids.
Olney JW. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1976;69:497-506. No abstract available. PMID: 821314
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/821314

Brain-damaging potential of protein hydrolysates.
Olney JW, Ho OL, Rhee V. N Engl J Med. 1973 Aug 23;289(8):391-5. No abstract available. PMID: 4198222
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4198222

Brain damage in infant mice following oral intake of glutamate, aspartate or cysteine.
Olney JW, Ho OL. Nature. 1970 Aug 8;227(5258):609-11. No abstract available. PMID: 5464249
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5464249

Neonatal exposure to monosodium glutamate induces morphological alterations in suprachiasmatic nucleus of adult rat.
Rojas-Castañeda JC, Vigueras-Villaseñor RM, Chávez-Saldaña M, Rojas P, Gutiérrez-Pérez O, Rojas C, Arteaga-Silva M. Int J Exp Pathol. 2016 Feb;97(1):18-26. doi: 10.1111/iep.12157. Epub 2016 Jan 21. PMID: 26799547
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26799547

What is monosodium glutamate
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/whatismonosodiumglutamate.html

The Toxicity/Safety of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG): A study in Suppression of Information.
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/assets/manuscript2.pdf

Flawed industry studies
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/flawed.html

Six big fat lies
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/lies.html

Propaganda 101: The 8 ingredients in cutting edge propaganda
https://www.truthinlabeling.org/blog/2019/05/01/propaganda-101-the-8-ingredients-in-cutting-edge-propaganda/

https://www.edelman.com/insights/edelman-ad-age-best-places-work-2019

https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Edelman

https://gawker.com/356220/sometimes-you-just-have-to-stand-up-there-and-lie

Excitotoxins in processed food: The best guarded secret of the food and drug industries

Excitotoxicity is the pathological process by which nerve cells are damaged or killed by excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamic acid (glutamate).

In 1969 when researcher Dr. John Olney of Washington University in St. Louis observed that process in his laboratory, it should have resulted in sweeping changes in how food additives are regulated. 

He noted that glutamate fed as monosodium glutamate (MSG) to laboratory animals killed brain cells and subsequently caused gross obesity, reproductive dysfunction, and behavior abnormalities.

Before that, the world knew nothing of what Dr. Olney had dubbed “excitotoxins.” And after Olney’s discovery, the existence of free excitotoxic amino acids present in food became the best-guarded secret of the food and drug industries.

Today, excitotoxins present in food remain largely ignored or unknown, mostly because the rich and powerful food and pharmaceutical industries want it that way. A great deal of food industry profit depends on using excitotoxins to “enhance” the taste of cheaply made food. And a great deal of pharmaceutical industry profit depends on selling drugs to “cure” the diseases and disabilities caused by the excitotoxins in the food supply.

What are excitotoxins?

Excitotoxins are always amino acids, but not all amino acids are excitotoxins. The amino acid with the greatest excitotoxic footprint is glutamate. When present in protein or released from protein in a regulated fashion (through routine digestion), glutamate is vital to normal body function. It is the major 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.

Technically speaking, neurotransmitters that over-stimulate their receptors to the point of killing the cells that host them are called excitotoxic neurotransmitters, and the resulting condition is referred to as excitotoxicity. Glutamate excitotoxicity is the process that underlies the damage done by MSG and the other ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MfG). 

Glutamate is called a non-essential amino acid because if the body does not have sufficient quantities to function normally, any needed glutamate can be produced from other amino acids. So, there is no need to add glutamate to the human diet. The excitotoxins in MSG and other ingredients that contain MfG are not needed for nutritional purposes. MSG and many other ingredients have been designed to enhance the taste of cheaply made food for the sole purpose of lining the pockets of those who manufacture and sell them.

Glutamate neurotransmitters trigger glutamate receptors both in the central nervous system and in peripheral tissue (heart, lungs, and intestines, for example). After stimulating glutamate receptors, glutamate neurotransmitters may do no damage and simply fade away, so to speak, or they may damage the cells that their receptors cling to, or overexcite their receptors until the cells that host them die.

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

That might account for the fact that some people are more sensitive to MfG than others.

Less is known about glutamate receptors outside the brain – in the heart, stomach, and lungs, for example. It would make sense (although that doesn’t make it true) that cells serving a particular function would be grouped together. It would also seem logical that in each location there would be fewer glutamate receptors siting on host cells than found in the brain, and for some individuals there might be so few cells with glutamate receptors to begin with, that ingestion of even small amounts of MfG might trigger asthma, atrial fibrillation, or irritable bowel disease; while persons with more cells hosting glutamate receptors would not notice damage or loss.

Short-term effects of excitotoxic glutamate (such as asthma and migraine headache) have long been obvious to those not influenced by the rhetoric of the glutamate industry and their friends at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Hopefully, researchers will soon begin to correlate the adverse effects of glutamate ingestion with endocrine disturbances such as reproductive disorders and gross obesity. It is well known that glutamate plays an important role in some mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, but the fact that ingestion of excitotoxic glutamate might contribute to existing pools of free glutamate that could become excitotoxic, still needs to be considered. Finally, a few have begun to realize the importance of glutamate’s access to the human body through the mouth, nose and skin.

There are three excitotoxic amino acids used in quantity in food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, protein drinks and powders, and dietary supplements:

1) Glutamic acid — found in flavor enhancers, infant formula, enteral care products for invalids, protein powders, processed foods, anything that is hydrolyzed, and some pesticides/fertilizers.

2) Aspartic acid — found in low-calorie sweeteners, aspartame and its aliases, infant formula, protein powders, anything that is hydrolyzed, and

3) L-cysteine — found in dough conditioners.

According to Dr. Edward Group, the six most dangerous excitotoxins are: MSG (monosodium glutamate), aspartate, domoic acid, L-BOAA, cysteine, and casein.

Resources

Dr. Edward Group The 6 Most Dangerous Excitotoxins. Global Healing Center.  (accessed 8/20/2016)

Blaylock RL. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Health Press; 1994.

Olney JW. Brain Lesions, Obesity, and Other Disturbances in Mice Treated with Monosodium Glutamate; Science. 1969;164:719-21.  

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

Olney, J.W. Excitatory neurotoxins as food additives: an evaluation of risk. Neurotoxicology 2: 163-192, 1980.

Olney JW. Excitotoxins in foods. Neurotoxicology. 1994 Fall;15(3):535-44.

Gudiño-Cabrera G, Ureña-Guerrero ME, Rivera-Cervantes MC, Feria-Velasco AI, Beas-Zárate C. Excitotoxicity triggered by neonatal monosodium glutamate treatment and blood-brain barrier function. Arch Med Res. 2014 Nov;45(8):653-9.

Verywellhealth.com.  An Overview of Cell Receptors and How They Work https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-a-receptor-on-a-cell-562554   (Accessed 5/5/2019)