What is free glutamate?
How is it fabricated?
What roles does it play?
Adverse reactions it is known for
Evidence for brain damage
Abnormalities associated with glutamate-induced brain damage
History of the Jekyll and Hyde amino acid
When free glutamate is used in food, it is called a food, and reactions to its free glutamate are called adverse reactions. When free glutamate is used in drugs, it’s called a drug, and reactions to it are called side effects. Glutamic acid is an excitotoxic – brain damaging – amino acid. It does the same damage regardless of how it is used and whether it is used in food or in drugs.
By law, the names of all ingredients used in any given food must be named on their food ingredient labels. But the fact that there is or is not free glutamate in an ingredient will not be disclosed.
By law, the names of ingredients used in drugs, to which consumers have indicated they had adverse reactions, must be identified in the inserts enclosed with each drug.
Free glutamate is an excitotoxic – brain damaging – amino acid, no matter how it is produced, or what it is said to be used for.
There is no straightforward way to identify free glutamate in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, or dietary supplements. A consumer may have an MSG/glutamate-induced adverse reaction, but since free glutamate in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and dietary supplements is not identified as such on the label of the product, the consumer may not realize that (s)he has come into contact with free glutamate.
Making matters worse, the glutamate industry (the Glutes) have sold the medical community on the fiction that reactions to "MSG" are allergic reactions--which is not true. The Glutes urge physicians to give allergy tests to people who might be MSG-sensitive, knowing full well that the reaction is a reaction to a toxin, not a reaction to an allergenic substance, and, as such, is not IgE mediated. Traditional allergy tests only identify reactions that are IgE mediated.
The only way to determine if a person is sensitive to free glutamate is to feed free glutamate to that person and observe him or her for as long as 48 hours after feeding; or to have the person keep a record of food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and dietary supplement use and any reactions.
Learning to pinpoint free glutamate as a reaction trigger, recognizing reactions that might be glutamate-induced, and understanding where free glutamate is hidden in food, are essential to recognizing or diagnosing glutamate-induced adverse reactions.
Reactions are dose related. Some people cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of free glutamate. Others tolerate single small amounts, but react when they ingest a gram or more in any one meal. Others can ingest five grams or more, without evidencing a reaction. Canned soups analyzed some time ago, each contained about .6 grams MSG per serving. (MSG always contains free glutamate.) At that time, five grams or more MSG could, at times, be found in a single meal.
The adverse effects of free glutamate ingestion may be cumulative. People have reported eating products containing small amounts once a week without experiencing reactions, while having reactions when those same products were consumed two or three days in a row.
Free glutamate is very often hidden in food. Hiding it makes recognition so complex and confusing that people who are sensitive have a great deal of difficulty pinpointing their sensitivities. If a person reacted after eating something known to contain free glutamate, they might suspect that free glutamate was the culprit. But if that person had the same reaction after eating something that contained free glutamate but did not disclose that fact on the label, they would very likely question his original suspicion. Until all sources of free glutamate are easily identifiable, evaluation of possible glutamate reactions will be difficult. Difficulty in diagnosing is compounded by the industry practice of illegally advertising "No MSG," "No MSG Added," or "No Added MSG" on labels of products that contain free glutamate.
Difficulty in diagnosing glutamate-sensitivity is also compounded by use of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and plant "growth enhancers" that contain free glutamate and leave residues in or on crops when they are brought to market.
Diagnostic tools generally available to physicians are limited to a procedure called "challenge." In a physician's office, an appropriate dose (or doses) of free glutamate would be given to the patient, and provision would have to be made for both restricting the patient's contact with other potential reaction triggers and observing reactions delayed by as much as 48 hours. As an alternative, physician and patient working together may be able to identify, or rule out, glutamate as a reaction trigger through analysis of a patient food diary. Restricting intake to totally unprocessed food and drink for three weeks, then reintroducing items, one at a time, may help identify offending sources of free glutamate.
For more information, see Ingredient Names Used To Hide Free Glutamate.
A number of free glutamate-containing ingredients have been designated "organic" by the US National Organic Standards Board. The fact that they may have been made using organic starting materials does not alter the fact that they cause adverse reactions. For sensitive people, "organic" does not mean "safe."
Before it was understood that it is the free glutamate in MSG that causes adverse reactions, one of industry's favorite ways of hiding MSG and its free glutamate was to claim that there is "no added MSG" in a product. If an ingredient that contains free glutamate such as yeast extract is used in a product instead of "monosodium glutamate," the manufacture might make the statement that the product has "no added MSG." If free glutamate is processed into a product instead of being poured into a product, the manufacturer might declare that there is "no MSG added" or "no added MSG" in the product, even though the manufacturer knows full well that the product contains free glutamate. The FDA has deemed that such practice is illegal, but does not enforce its ruling.
In 1997, MSG was introduced in a plant "growth enhancer" (AuxiGro) to be applied to the soil or sprayed on growing crops. It would appear that the use of AuxiGro in the United States has been withdrawn, but it is being used actively in Europe, Asia, Central America, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and Africa.
There are a number of other free glutamate-containing agricultural products being used as fertilizers or being sprayed on growing crops without restriction. Hydrolyzed fish protein and hydrolyzed chicken feathers are two of them.
Letters that Truth in Labeling has received from MSG-sensitive consumers may be helpful in recognizing glutamate-induced adverse reactions.