Excitotoxins, MSG and its hidden names

by Amy on 05/18/2011


Hidden Sources of MSG, excitotoxins
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What is MSG?

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a processed food additive. It is an extremely dangerous neurotoxin (excitotoxin) that shrivels and kills brain cells in the hypothalamus and has been linked to migraines, seizures, ADD/ADHD, heart palpitations, tremors, and MANY other symptoms that can even be fatal. I know it was partly responsible for my constant daily headaches (for about 20 years) and the two years of migraines every day that led to a hospitalization, more drugs that did nothing but cause side effects and years of misery.

What is the hypothalamus?

The hypothalamus is a portion of the brain, located just above the brain stem, roughly the size of an almond. Though small, it’s incredibly important as it is responsible for certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system. One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian cycles.

What is an excitotoxin?

An excitotoxin is a chemical that causes a brain cell to become overexcited and fire uncontrollably, leading to cell death. MSG (and other excitotoxins like asparatame) has the potential for inflicting permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. These chemicals also cross the placental barrier, harming the brains of unborn children.

Ok, so I should just avoid MSG and aspartame, right?
Absolutely. However, you need to know that there are over 40 hidden names for MSG on food labels. FORTY?!? Yes. 40! 4-0.

So, foods labeled NO-MSG or MSG-Free (think Chinese restaurants) may not have actual MSG added to it, but if they contain any of these ingredients, there is STILL MSG IN THE FOOD!

Here is more information from truthinlabeling.org

Names of ingredients that ALWAYS contain processed free glutamic acid:

Glutamic acid (E 620)
Glutamate (E 620)
Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
Calcium glutamate (E 623)
Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
Natrium glutamate
Yeast extract
Anything “hydrolyzed”
Any “hydrolyzed protein”
Calcium caseinate,  Sodium caseinate
Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
Autolyzed yeast
Textured protein
Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
Soy protein isolate
Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
Whey protein isolate
Anything “…protein”

*Glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein does not cause adverse reactions.  To cause adverse reactions, the glutamic acid must have been processed/manufactured or come from protein that has been fermented.

Names of ingredients that often contain or produce processed free glutamic acid:

Carrageenan (E 407)
Bouillon and broth
Any “flavors” or “flavoring”
Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
Anything “ultra-pasteurized”
Barley malt
Pectin (E 440)
Anything “enzyme modified”
Anything containing “enzymes”
Malt extract
Soy sauce (a reader has informed us that Russell Blaylock, MD states in his book, Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, that soy sauce ALWAYS contains MSG)
Soy sauce extract
Anything “protein fortified”
Anything “fermented”

The following are ingredients suspected of containing or creating sufficient processed free glutamic acid to serve as MSG-reaction triggers in HIGHLY SENSITIVE people:

Corn starch
Corn syrup
Modified food starch
Lipolyzed butter fat
Rice syrup
Brown rice syrup
Milk powder
Reduced fat milk (skim; 1%; 2%)
Most things low fat or no fat
Anything “Enriched”
Anything Vitamin enriched

* E numbers are use in Europe in place of food additive names.

The following work synergistically with MSG to enhance flavor.  If they are present for flavoring, so is MSG.

Disodium 5’-guanylate (E 627)
Disodium 5’-inosinate (E-631)
Disodium 5′-ribonucleotides (E 635)

Low fat and no fat milk products often contain milk solids that contain MSG and many dairy products contain carrageenan, guar gum, and/or locust bean gum.  Low fat and no fat versions of ice cream and cheese may not be as obvious as yogurt, milk, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, etc., but they are not exceptions.

Protein powders contain glutamic acid, which, invariably, will be processed free glutamic acid (MSG).  Individual amino acids are not always listed on labels of protein powders.

At present there is an FDA requirement to include the protein source when listing hydrolyzed protein products on labels of processed foods.  Examples are hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed pea protein, hydrolyzed whey protein, hydrolyzed corn protein. If a tomato, for example, were whole, it would be identified as a tomato. Calling an ingredient tomato protein indicates that the tomato has been hydrolyzed, at least in part, and that processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is present.

Disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate are relatively expensive food additives that work synergistically with inexpensive MSG. Their use suggests that the product has MSG in it. They would probably not be used as food additives if there were no MSG present.

MSG reactions have been reported from soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and cosmetics, where MSG is hidden in ingredients with names that include the words “hydrolyzed,” “amino acids,” and/or “protein.”  Most sun block creams and insect repellents also contain MSG.

Drinks, candy, and chewing gum are potential sources of hidden MSG and/or aspartame, neotame, and AminoSweet (the new name for aspartame). Aspartic acid, found in neotame, aspartame (NutraSweet), and AminoSweet, ordinarily causes MSG type reactions in MSG sensitive people. (It would appear that calling aspartame “AminoSweet” is industry’s method of choice for hiding aspartame.) We have not seen Neotame used widely in the United States.

Aspartame will be found in some medications, including children’s medications. For questions about the ingredients in pharmaceuticals, check with your pharmacist and/or read the product inserts for the names of “other” or “inert” ingredients.

Binders and fillers for medications, nutrients, and supplements, both prescription and non-prescription, enteral feeding materials, and some fluids administered intravenously in hospitals, may contain MSG.

According to the manufacturer, Varivax–Merck chicken pox vaccine (Varicella Virus Live), contains L-monosodium glutamate and hydrolyzed gelatin, both of which contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG) which causes brain lesions in young laboratory animals, and causes endocrine disturbances like OBESITY and REPRODUCTIVE disorders later in life.  It would appear that most, if not all, live virus vaccines contain some ingredient(s) that contains MSG.

Reactions to MSG are dose related, i.e., some people react to even very small amounts. MSG-induced reactions may occur immediately after ingestion or after as much as 48 hours.  The time lapse between ingestion and reaction is typically the same each time for a particular individual who ingests an amount of MSG that exceeds his or her individual tolerance level.

Here’s what Sally Fallon has to say about the health effects of MSG, in her fantastic piece, “Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry”:

While the industry was adding MSG to food in larger and larger amounts, in 1957 scientists found that mice became blind and obese when MSG was administered by feeding tube. In 1969, MSG-induced lesions were found in the hypothalamus region of the mouse brain. Subsequent studies pointed in the same direction. MSG is a neurotoxic substance that causes a wide range of reactions in humans, from temporary headaches to permanent brain damage. It is also associated with violent behavior. We have had a huge increase in Alzheimer’s, brain cancer, seizures, multiple sclerosis and diseases of the nervous system, and one of the chief culprits is the flavorings in our food.

Ninety-five percent of processed foods contain MSG, and, in the late 1950s, it was even added to baby food. Manufacturers say they have voluntarily taken it out of the baby food, but they didn’t really remove it; they just called it “hydrolyzed protein” instead.

An excellent book, Excitotoxins, by Russell Blaylock, describes how nerve cells either disintegrate or shrivel up in the presence of free glutamic acid if it gets past the blood-brain barrier. The glutamates in MSG are absorbed directly from the mouth to the brain. Some investigators believe that the great increase in violence in this country starting in 1960 is due to the increased use of MSG beginning in the late 1950s, particularly as it was added to baby foods.”

Remember: By food industry definition, all MSG is “naturally occurring.” “Natural” doesn’t mean “safe.”  “Natural” only means that the ingredient started out in nature, like arsenic and hydrochloric acid.

When you eat real, whole foods, you automatically avoid MSG, asparatme and other excitotoxins. No need to memorize the whole list of different food additives and E numbers, simply skip the processed junk and EAT REAL FOOD!

Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Russell Blaylock, M.D.
The CrazyMakers- How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children by Carol Simontacchi



Jo at Jo's Health Corner May 18, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Hi Amy,
Great post explaining about MSG and how it affect us. It is so easy to overlook that it is also called other names. I will share this on my facebook page..Stop by sometimes: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Jos-Health-Corner/161862132202

I will add this page to my page’s favorite..


Amy May 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Hey Jo! Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing this with your FB fans. We certainly have to spread the word! I’ll check out your page and share it with my readers too :)


Rachel @ day2day joys May 18, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Great info! Thanks for linking up to healthy 2day Wednesdays! I knew thre were other names for MSG but I didn’t know there were 40! Crazy! And crazy how the FDA allows it!


Amy May 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Thanks, Rachel! I know, isn’t that nuts?? We definitely have to be very diligent in reading labels (and eating food WITHOUT LABELS AT ALL!) :)


Gary Benton May 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

According to Dr. Blaylock in his book “Excitotoxins”, soy sauce ALWAYS contains MSG. There are probably thousands of identical copies of the above list, and it places soy sauce in the “sometimes contains MSG” category.


Amy May 19, 2011 at 11:34 am

Thank you, Gary! I have Excitoxins sitting on my desk right now! I’ll make a note in the article :) I appreciate the comment!!


Kevin Harper May 26, 2011 at 9:59 am

This is a very insightful article.

I took a neurobiology class a couple of semesters ago and we touched on MSG. And congrats – you took a complex subject and made it very easy to understand.

I wanted to add something about the hypothalamus… It largely controls the endocrine system. For example, it controls the pituitary gland, which in turn communicates with the thyroid. So a hypothalamus dysfunction can lead to a poorly functioning thyroid.

Again, great info and thanks for the post. I enjoy reading this blog regularly.

Kevin :: Glycotrainer
On Twitter: @glycotrainer
Web Site: http://www.GlycoTrainer.com


Jorell October 13, 2012 at 4:18 am

So there are some who say that glutamates are excititoxins, and others who say that most “savory” foods like cheese or even tomatoes have glutamates in them in relatively large quantities (naturally). Parmesan cheese is supposedly 1% glutamic acid, and is one of the most glutamate-rich foods you can find. Is this true? And if it is, then what, if any, difference is there between the glutamic acid and the salt-stabilized monosodium glutamate? What is the basic science behind the neurotoxicity?


Amy October 13, 2012 at 9:47 am

The best resource I’ve found is the book, Excitotoxins by Dr. Russell Blaylock. That definitely outlines the science behind this…some of those foods will bother people who are extremely sensitive (which is related to impaired Phase II liver detox, by the way) but it is different than isolated, manipulated MSG.


Melissa December 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Hi Amy, I did not understand your answer to Jorell. Is MSG that we have heard is in some natural cheeses really there? Is this different from the stuff in processed foods? Are natural cheeses and tomatoes from the vine in my garden also bad for people who are allergic to MSG?


Amy December 16, 2012 at 11:09 am

Hi Melissa,

It IS different…glutamates are there, MSG is not. Some people who are very sensitive to MSG due to liver issues may not tolerate concentrated amounts of glutamates found in cheeses or tomato products, either. When I was most sensitive to MSG, I could not tolerate strong parmesans or sun-dried tomatoes (it was very concentrated in the dried tomatoes much more than fresh). Now that my liver has healed, I can tolerate these foods with no problem, but stay away from MSG in commercial/packaged foods because of it’s toxicity.


Lynn S February 18, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Hello. I see yeast on the list. Does that include nutritional yeast? Thanks for letting me know.


Steve Kasian February 20, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Wow… kinda makes you want to just give up on trying and just eat whatever, as it seems there is little available to eat today that doesn’t have at least some of this harmful garbage in it.

Even the “certified organic” label is somewhat misleading, as there is very little in the way of effective regulation on what can be sold with that label. Investigations have found that many “organic” foods are not really what we believe they are.

The most annoying thing about the whole “organic” movement is the word itself. It is a total misuse of the word, as the definition of “organic” is as follows: “of, relating to, or derived from living organisms”. Why does everything in life have to have such a high ridiculosity factor these days??

Thanks for the article! Very interesting and informative.


Kenpachi February 27, 2013 at 12:01 am

I just noticed that whey protein, whey protein isolate, and whey protein concentrate are listed under the hidden names. The main ingredients in my whey protein is whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. Does that mean I am gulping down MSG with my protein? I can see how they would aid the taste but now I’m worried I may be building up a ton of MSG with my daily shakes. Any advice or information?


Amy March 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm

It is possible that you are being exposed to MSG through these ingredients. I don’t personally consume, or recommend my clients consume, whey protein because the protein is typically very processed and has become denatured. I feel that it’s preferable to consume whole foods in their natural form, rather than in a processed form. When we make a smoothie, we use whole, raw grassfed milk (or sometimes full-fat coconut milk), nut butter (or seed butter or coconut butter), pasture-raised raw egg yolks, fruits, greens (sometimes) and coconut oil (melted slightly).


Blair Grossman March 31, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Do you know of any concentrated stock base that does not contain glutamate. Seems they all contain proceeded proteins.

Thanks for the heads up


Amy April 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I don’t. It’s very easy and inexpensive to make your own, however. Here’s a video to show you how: How to Make Chicken Broth from Scratch- A Real Food Video Tutorial

If you want to reduce it for a sauce/gravy/demi glace or to have for easier transport or storage, simply continue to boil until it’s the desired consistency. Hope that helps!


Rockin Chef from Down Under April 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm

I am simply writing to leave a compliment from a passionate chef who appreciates the beauty of clarity and good information.

This is a great resource and you provide excellent answers.

At the end of the day, the answer is simple: Natural food! Everything is simple, it\’s cheaper to make and it tastes better. Some of us can do the fancy stuff and thats ok.

Cheers for the read, now I can prove to my girlfriend everything I have been saying ;-)


Nicholle April 19, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Thanks for the info and all the work you put into finding this out!
Just when you think your safe not buying products with the name monosodium glutamate!
Just goes to show us we need to cook more from scratch ;)
And use natural products on our bodies.


Kennedy February 2, 2014 at 9:53 pm

I’ve read Dr Russell Blaylocks book on Excitotoxins and think it’s great. I had a question I hope you may be to clear up. It’s about whey protein concentrate. I get a raw organic whey. It has only
1 Ingredient: 100% Pure organic whey from the milk of grass-fed cows, No added sweeteners, preservatives or fillers, Soy Free (no soy lecithin),rBGH/rBST hormone free, & Processed at low temperatures WITHOUT acid treatment. Your thoughts?


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