We’ve all heard of monosodium glutamate, but what is it? Glutamic acid and its ions and salts are known collectively as glutamates. They are flavour enhancing compounds providing an umami (savoury) taste to food. The sodium salt of glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate (MSG), is an additive that’s widely used by food manufacturers to activate and excite our taste buds. This additive is commonly found in pizza, TV dinners, pasta, canned food, all sauces, frozen desserts and soft drinks. MSG is liberally added to all fast, processed, pre-prepared and prepackaged foods – you will even find it in well-known varieties of baked beans, gravy and soup. It is purposely designed to convince our brain that the food we are eating tastes delicious and we want more of it.
Incredibly, the usage of MSG has doubled every decade since 1940. Due to a lack of labelling laws, it is not easy to spot MSG in the food that you regularly purchase. MSG can be labeled as hydrolysed vegetable protein, vegetable protein, natural flavouring, hydrolysed plant protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinates, calcium caseinates, yeast extract, textured protein, hydrolysed protein, hydrolysed yeast, malt extract or malt flavouring.
Under European law, glutamic acid and its associated salts have to be declared, and the name of the E number of the salt has to be listed on the label. Glutamic acid and its salts as food additives have the following E numbers: E620, E62, E622, E623 and E625.
OK, so what if my food is flavoured with synthetic flavouring? Excitotoxins. That’s what. These compounds literally excite your brain cells to death – imagine hundreds of balloons being let go before tied, haphazardly flying around until they all run out of air. Excitotoxins cause the brain cells – or neurons – to become overstimulated and fire continuously until they are exhausted and die. Food flavourings are liberally added to adult, infant and children’s food, so we all ingest these compounds unknowingly over our lifetime.
The blood-brain barrier
Nearly all parts of the brain have a blood-brain barrier which protect this fragile system from internal and external toxins – think of it as a cat flap that only allows your cat in and out.
MSG, being an excitotoxin, gets past the blood-brain barrier bringing toxic compounds into the brain tissue and exciting brain cells until they die. These brain cells are not replicated or replaced, therefore the brain begins a process of degeneration that can only be slowed down and reversed with targeted nutritional support and toxin reduction.
In summary, by consuming MSG, the cat flap in your brain will be wedged open, allowing all the balloons to fly like mad until exhausted and dead.
Excitotoxins, infants and children
Research indicates that children are four times more sensitive to the action of excitotoxins on the brain than adults. Babies’ and children’s brains are even more vulnerable and delicate than ours. They have not yet fully formed and reached maturity, and they do not have a functioning blood-brain barrier. This means that any toxins that the child eats, drinks or applies to their skin will enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain.
Research indicates that excitotoxin damage to the brain can manifest in children as autism, stuttering or delayed speech, stunted growth, hyperactive behaviour, short term memory problems, inability to control emotions, lowered intelligence and damage to the endocrine system, resulting in early onset puberty.
In teenagers and young adults, neuron damage from excitotoxins, can result in a range of problems including an inability to control emotions, arrested development, learning disabilities, lack of ability to see the larger picture, social incompetency, inability to understand or demonstrate empathy and being unable to perform complex problem solving.
Our sensitivity to excitotoxins increases when we consume them from more than one food source. If you give your toddler a diet coke and a can of soup, you are exposing the child to 500 micromules of MSG. These levels are enough to cause destruction to the nerves in the brain.
Once the blood level of the excitotoxin has diminished, the levels remain elevated in the brain for 24 hours and the destruction of neurons continues cumulatively. Those that consume more than two diet beverages or foods a day have constantly elevated levels of excitotoxins in the brain. Continued consumption will cause headaches, dizziness, poor memory, forgetfulness, heightened emotions, sleep disturbance and irritability.