Summary. This page has been established to warn the public about the potential dangers of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). The World Health Center report on MSG and the Mayo Clinic Report on MSG support the information presented on this page. For more information, there are many books written about the dangers of MSG.
Hazards Overview. Many people have experienced negative side effects from ingesting Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). Side effects may include paralysis, inability to breathe, tingling, and swelling. Negative reactions can be so severe that MSG consumption could be deadly for some people. For this reason, socially responsible restaurants and food manufacturers no longer use MSG as a flavor enhancer, and have switched to natural seasonings instead. Unfortunately, some restaurants and food manufacturers still use MSG.
MSG Naturally Occurring in Food is Misleading. Some misinformation that’s become increasingly promoted is that MSG is naturally found in food and therefore it is safe. While it is true that there are minute levels of unprocessed glutamate found in some foods, this is irrelevant when considering the safety of MSG. Just because Cocaine is naturally occurring in the Coca leaf, doesn’t mean processed raw cocaine is safe. The beautiful poppy flower is relatively harmless, yet it’s the source of opium, heroin, and many harmful and addictive opiates such as morphine and codeine. Tobacco is a harmless plant that grows in nature, yet when smoked or chewed it can cause cancer. Just because glutamates are found to be naturally occurring in small quantities doesn’t make them safe.
Brain Damage. According to a recent report by the UHR, excitotoxins like MSG can result in brain damage even as they are found in small amounts in natural foods.
For this reason, MSG is listed by Underground Health Reporter in the #1 position among the top-10 list of most harmful ingredients in foods.
Mayo Clinic Health Advisory. The MayoClinic warning on MSG states, “some people report more severe reactions [than those mentioned in the FDA study]. The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid foods containing MSG. When MSG is added to food, the FDA requires that ‘monosodium glutamate’ be listed on the label — or on the menu, in restaurants.” The Mayo Clinic warning cites the following list of possible reactions to MSG:
- Headache, sometimes called MSG headache
- Sense of facial pressure or tightness
- Numbness, tingling or burning in or around the mouth
- Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
U.S. Government Food Safety Warning. The transport of MSG is controlled by the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. [PDF source] Because there is so much concern about MSG, the FDA commissioned a study be conducted by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). The study resulted in a 350 page report completed on 31 July 1995 [this report mysteriously deleted from public archives]. The research determined that MSG consumption can result in the following side-effects:
- burning sensation in the back of the neck, forearms and chest
- numbness in the back of the neck, radiating to the arms and back
- tingling, warmth and weakness in the face, temples, upper back, neck and arms
- facial pressure or tightness
- chest pain
- rapid heartbeat
- bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) in MSG-intolerant people with asthma
Lack of Government Regulation. Despite numerous findings by government agencies and health institutions, the FDA refuses to take any action that would prohibit the use of MSG. As with many uncontrolled substances, it all comes down to money. The sale of Monosodium Glutamate is big business. Despite the health hazards, annual worldwide demand is about 1.1 million tons. So, it’s unlikely that any government agency will limit the use of MSG. In such circumstances, it is up to consumers to become informed to protect themselves.
Excitotoxins. Monosodium Glutamate is categorized as an Excitotoxin. In 1996, Dr. Russell L. Blaylock M.D. published the book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills. In his book, Dr. Blaylock cites studies in which MSG was found to produce brain lesions, obesity, and brain damage. Citing a 1968 study conducted by Dr. John W. Olney, Dr. Blaylock writes, “… not only did MSG cause severe damage to the neurons in the retina of the eye, but … it also caused widespread destruction of neurons in the hypothalamus and other areas of the brain adjacent to the ventricular system, called the cirumventricular organs.” (p. 35) Dr. Blaylock continues, “… at the time of Dr. Olney’s report, even baby foods contained relatively large doses of MSG. … The discovery of Dr. Olney was particularly important because the hypothalamus plays such an important role in controlling so many areas of the body. This little piece of brain, no larger than the fingernail of your little finger, controls a multitude of systems: regulating growth, the onset of puberty, most of the endocrine glands, appetite, sleep cycles and waking patterns, the biological clock and even consciousness itself. Dr. Olney’s studies on various species of test animals disclosed that MSG, when fed in doses similar to those found in human diets, destroys hypothalamic neurons. This type of hypothalamic damage produces a particular syndrome in animals which caused them to be short in stature, obese, and to have reproductive problems. … Recognizing the immediate danger to the public, especially to the unborn child, Dr. Olney and others testified before Congress concerning these dangers. As a result of their vigilance, MSG was voluntarily removed from baby foods in 1969. But no one had warned pregnant women of the danger to their developing babies caused by the MSG found within their own food. This danger would exist if the glutamate from the mother’s blood entered the blood of their unborn baby. In 1974, Dr. Olney demonstrated that MSG, when fed to pregnant Rhesus monkeys, could cause brain damage to their offspring. Other researchers found similar results when pregnant rats were fed MSG.” (pp. 36-37)
Strong Political Lobby. In the early days of tobacco product promotion, all those involved in the tobacco industry assured the public that tobacco consumption would not have an adverse impact on health. The manufacturers, advertisers, and the tobacco lobby had much at stake. Today’s equivalent to tobacco is MSG. So, it’s not surprising that there is an MSG alliance of organizations attempting to ensure the ongoing sale and profitability of MSG distribution. Simply known as, The Glutamate Association, the front organization for promoting and defending MSG sales is shrouded behind a cloak of secrecy. The official Glutamate Association website doesn’t reveal their physical location or the identity of any members. With millions of dollars at stake, you can believe this organization is doing everything it can to hold on to their market share.
The Glutamate Association, established in 1977, is an association of manufacturers, national marketers, and processed food users of glutamic acid and its salts, principally the flavor enhancer, monosodium glutamate (MSG). Among the Association’s international members are many of the world’s largest food companies involved in such diverse areas as the manufacturing and marketing of food ingredients, spice and flavor blends, and canned, frozen and other packaged prepared foods.
Some Snack Foods Do Not Contain Monosodium Glutamate. Despite its dangers, monosodium glutamate is still found in many snack foods as well as Top Ramen instant noodles. For this reason, one would think it’s impossible to make a spicy snack food without using MSG. However, it is clearly possible to manufacture very tasty and flavorful snack foods without the use of MSG as demonstrated by the following manufacturers’ products that do not contain MSG:
- Blue Diamond Almonds spicy flavors such as Jalapeño Smokehouse and Wasabi flavor
- Cheez-It snack crackers (original flavor) by Kellog’s/Sunshine. Warning: Some new variations of Cheez-It crackers contain MSG.
- Wal-Mart Great Value BBQ flavored Potato Chips
Further Reading. Below are links to articles with additional information about MSG.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Is it harmful? (Mayo Clinic)
- The Dangers of Monosodium Glutamate (HowStuffWorks)
Videos. Below is a video series from CBN featuring Dr. Russell L. Blaylock M.D., author of the the book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills.
Document History. This document was first published on 20080903at1001. It was revised on 20120226su1926 to correct two typos.
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