More than a century ago, the discovery of glutamate forever changed the food industry. The amino acid made average-tasting food irresistible, thanks to the savory unami flavor it delivered. Unfortunately, it also likely made many neurological diseases commonplace.
Glutamate’s most famous form — monosodium glutamate (MSG) — is a staple of most processed foods like chips, frozen meals, takeout, infant formula, and countless other products. It derives from seaweed, and has now become a multi-billion dollar phenomenon of modern cuisine.
Not only has the rise of glutamate and processed food led to staggering obesity rates (due to the offset feeling of “fullness” MSG provides), but the chemical also likely contributes to some of the worst diseases humans can face. Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and other neurological conditions have all been linked to glutamate.
To make matters worse, food companies have quietly renamed MSG to other words like L-Glutamic acid or sodium glutamate. Even random ingredients like yeast extract, gelatin, textured protein, or soy protein isolate may actually be MSG in disguise.
They can get away with the ruse because glutamate is a naturally-occurring amino acid found in meat, dairy, and some plants — like seaweed, obviously. But the natural versions have specific binders that help them move through the body without issue. Synthetic versions do not have these binders, and as a result, adverse health reactions occur.
The real problem isn’t glutamate, but the amount of glutamate ingested in the body at any one time
“Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter released by nerve cells in your brain,” the Cleveland Clinic notes. “It plays a major role in learning and memory. For your brain to function properly, glutamate needs to be present in the right concentration in the right places at the right time. Too much glutamate is associated with disease.”
We eat both naturally occurring and synthetic glutamate all the time, which means much of it lives in our second brain, the gut. Once in the gut, specialized transport proteins shuttle glutamate into intestinal epithelial cells where it helps produce other amino acids and nucleic acids. These acids are the building blocks of DNA and RNA.
The problems arise when excess glutamate escapes the gut and find themself in the blood stream. The excess then travels to organs (all of which have glutamate receptors, naturally) which do not need it. From there, health issues arise.
The reason the FDA and other regulatory bodies do not demonize synthetic glutamate is because the body should theoretically be able to protect itself. But the regulatory bodies do not take into account the bio-diversity of our species (everyone has different sensitivities, medications, allergies, diets, routines, etc.). Toxicity of an amino acid will likely affect everyone differently, so it’s easier to place the burden of responsibility onto the consumer rather than the producer.
Many of our health issues arise when glutamate overwhelms the brain, the specifics of which are detailed and scientifically complex. Vitamins C, D, and E have all been shown to help reverse the effects of free synthetic glutamate on the body; green tea extract has also been shown to help. But nothing can fully rehabilitate the body besides skipping MSG and its derivatives.
There’s just no way around it — you can’t live a life of health and wellness and eat frequent amounts of MSG. Once neurological diseases begin to take shape, there’s no going back, and there’s nothing worse than slowly losing your cognitive function. Skip the chemical flavor and opt for a diet of organic, natural foods, instead.