The relationship between MSG and migraine headache was explored by Scopp in a 1991 study entitled "MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein induced headache: review and case studies" (233).
In 1993, Martinez et al. (234) measured glutamic and aspartic acid levels in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with common and classic migraine during attacks, making comparisons with controls suffering from stress. Martinez found that plasma levels of amino acids in migraine patients were lower than in controls, while CSF concentrations of glutamic acid were higher in migraineurs than in controls. The authors concluded that "... results suggest an excess of neuroexcitatory amino acids in the [central nervous system] of migraine patients during attacks, possibly favoring a state of neuronal hyperexcitability." Martinez et al. had found a relationship between glutamate levels in the CSF of the central nervous system and migraine headache.
In 1992, the FDA had commissioned FASEB to do an independent review of research on the safety (never toxicity) of MSG. The FDA had admitted, in reports of adverse reactions on file at the FDA, that migraine headache (they call it “headache”) had been reported as an adverse reaction by over 43 per cent of the people reporting reactions to MSG. Moreover, with possible rare exception, monosodium glutamate had been acknowledged as a migraine headache trigger by most headache clinics in the United States. Yet the subject of migraine headache triggered by MSG has been systematically ignored by members of the glutamate industry including the FDA. Migraine headache is not even mentioned in the August 31, 1995 FASEB report “Analysis of Adverse Reactions to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)” that was commissioned by the FDA in 1992.
FASEB's failure to discuss monosodium glutamate as a migraine headache trigger is consistent with the tone of the entire 1995 FASEB report and the FDA’s long-standing position of denying the toxic potential of either MSG or aspartame, which contains neurotoxic aspartic acid. In its verbiage, the entire FASEB report minimizes the severity and extent of monosodium glutamate induced adverse reactions. Tachycardia and atrial fibrillation, for example, are described as "change in heart rate;" asthma is described as "difficulty breathing;" and depression is described as "change in mood quality or level." In their list of adverse reactions reported following ingestion of aspartame, death is classified as "other."
The FDA/industry strategy for dealing with an undeniable adverse reaction to MSG is to ignore it.
On June 24, 2009, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that,
“Many individuals with migraine headaches can identify triggers that cause or aggravate the headache. Because there is no cure, avoiding triggers may help to reduce the frequency or severity of migraine headaches. Triggers include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Changes in the weather
- Caffeine (too much or too little)
- Chocolate, or alcohol (often red wine)
- Lack of sleep or too much sleep
- Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle
- Skipped meals
- Certain foods that contain nitrates (such as luncheon meats, hot dogs), tyramine (such as aged cheeses, smoked fish), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or aspartame." (1)
Subj: THANK YOU!
Dear Mr. Samuels,
If it weren't for your website, I would be headed to the hospital yet again.
Long story short, I appear to be extremely sensitive to MSG now - it has gotten much worse over the last couple of years. The headaches are so bad that even on IV pain med and anti nausea med in the hosptial I am still vomiting while only 1/2 conscious (I do not remember this at all - but my poor husband does).
The neurologist, in an effort to keep me out of the hospital has give me vicodin and promethezine. They don't work too well. Even on both, I vomitted for 24 hours until I got past the worst of this last headache - I have to keep moving, rocking, forcing my head into hard things - if I lay back the pain shoots through my entire head and I immediately vomit again. It starts in my neck and takes over my head. I am not light or sound sensitive during these headaches, but am extremely dizzy and disoriented. My hands and feet tingle and my eyes have a hard time with discerning colors. It is terrible.
So - THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! We are going to do everything we can to keep me out of the hospital. It won't be easy, but we are going to try.
My biggest concern is bread - I understand malted barley (in most even fresh baked breads) has msg - is that really true? What can I eat? I'm already under weight and have a mitochondrial disorder to boot - so this is complicated.
Blessings sir for all your tireless efforts - my family thanks you!!! (ESPECIALLY MY HUSBAND!!)
Subj: Please forward additional facts
Hi and thanks for your web info on MSG and related names. I am requesting.....the list for additional ingredients that appear to cause MSG reactions in ACUTELY sensitive people. A list is available by request. I do suffer from Migraines and would greatly appreciate the list to avoid these in the future. Thanks so much!!!
Subj: Re: MSG
I've heard a lot of people complain about Trader Joe's. But mostly they want to shop there anyway.
I got rid of every speck of MSG after reading the lists on the website and books. Got rid of the low fat milk with additives. For five years I was getting up every day with a headache and would get a migraine once or twice a month. Since I eliminated more items I have no sign of a headache at all. I hope it lasts.
Subj: Thank you
First of all, there isn't enough sentiment in "thank you" to properly thank you. My 9 y.o. daughter has suffered from "migraine headaches" (always preceeded by nausea and violent vomiting) for about 18 months now. I have journaled in search of a pattern, visited a variety of useless doctors, theorized, and thought several times that we "solved it" and knew what to avoid. My poor daughter has missed out on birthday parties that were at noisy places like arcades, movie theaters, bowling alleys. She has avoided some of her favorite foods. We thought it was the "lights and sounds", combined w/ diet containing cheese, nitrites and/or chocolate.
After discovering your website and eliminating foods containing MSG, and diosodium guanylate and disodium inosinate it seems we may have found our answer. Your website taught me that not only is MSG a culprit but there are SO MANY OTHER HIDDEN SOURCES that create MSG during processing. I have memorized your list!
Long story short, although we lead a fairly healthy, predominantly organic life, my children are 9 and 11 and there is reality. They find themselves in fast food restaurants, other people's homes and parties and it is so helpful that we now know better what to avoid (thanks to your website)!! For the last year, my poor daughter has been scraping the cheese off the pizza served to her at b'day parties (because the neurologist said cheese can trigger migraines). Turns out it's all the preservatives in the crust of bowling alley or movie theater pizza that is full of chemicals. The Italian restaurant freshly made pizzas are just fine and my daughter has been eating them now, w/ extra cheese (her favorite!) w/ zero side effects.
Because of your website, I believe that my daughter doesn't suffer from migraines at all...I believe she has suffered horrible allergic reactions to PROCESSED FREE GLUTAMIC ACIDS. Additional proof of this is, since infancy, she has been plagued w/ large patches of annoying white bumps (like tiny hard pimples) on her cheeks and upper arms. In the last two weeks, they have virtually DISAPPEARED. Dermatologists, prescriptions, scrubs, nothing worked. We even visited a psychologist a year ago because of her shame of having "zits" at such a young age. She was privately "picking" at them, creating scabs and scars and then feeling shame. It was horrible. This was no strange skin condition...this was another form of her allergic reaction!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!
Subj: One more poisonous product exposed
Am thankful that someone out there is offering this warning to the public.
For years I have been getting terrible migraines that put me in bed for a day, usually once a week, and sometime twice. I'd discovered the great offender, MSG, 15 years ago, or more and have avoided it like the plague.
About 6 years ago I started getting these bad "barometric weather headaches". Could not figure it out. Then...discovery. All this time I had been eating "Sun Chips"....a great tasting chip that didn't have MSG on the label!
So, re-reading the ingrediants I decided to look up "hydrolyzed soy protein". Voila! And that brought me to your site. It also contains "Autolyzed yeast extract", and God knows what else man has tampered with is in their ingredients. And the laughable coup de grace, they are touting an advertizement about how they are helping to fight breast cancer! So glad they are interested in our health....
I want to thank you for your article. I have been allergic to MSG for years and I thought I knew what to say away from. I get migraines. I make most of my meals from scratch and use very little box or can foods. I use fresh vegetables from Mexico (it is grown right here in the fields), some times frozen, and eat a lot of chicken. The older I get the worse and though I am allergic to more foods. Then reading your article I realize all the things I have to cut out is on your list. I was shocked to read soy milk has msg. It makes sense after I have soy milk with protein drink in 2 hours I get a headache. Here I thought I was eating healthily and realizing I was putting more MSG in my system.
Thanks for solving my puzzle.
I wanted to thank you for the info on your website. My husband suffers from migraine headaches and sometimes I think he has seizures to go along with it. I didn’t realize the hidden names that MSG has. Also to think that I am giving my children food that I think has NO MSG and it does. This makes me sick to my stomach. I am doing more research on the affects of MSG and what products actually contain it. Hidden or not. Thank you.
Subj: FOOD PRODUCT REACTION
Both my wife and are are extremely sensitive to MSG..We ALWAYS know that it is present because we ALWAYS get headaches within an hour or so of consumption..(it's been suggested by my Dr. and by others that we're probably imagining the MSG allergy…Ha!)..today we purchased a bag of Garden of Eatin' Baked Crunchitos..made with Organic Corn and Cheese..we did a quick scan to check for MSG..there was none..we split the bag..within an hour we both had pounding headaches…I then noticed that the product contained MALTODEXTRIN… I googled.." Is Maltodextrin the same as MSG?."...I was lead to your website and learned that Maltodextrin is closely related and that manufacturers use it so they won't have to use' red-flag' MSG as an ingredient……the product also contains disodium phosphate and autolyzed yeast extract all of which are listed as related to MSG…..we bought the product because of being organic, no hydrogenated oil, blah, blah, blah….Thanks to your list we will be much more careful when reading ingredients…
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.Cephalalgia13: 89-93, 1993.
235. Scopp, A. Personal communication. June 17, 2002.