How Processed Food and Glutamates Can Steal Your Health

Have you ever heard of “excitotoxicity”?   This is a term coined in 1969 by neuroscientist Dr. John Olney of the Washington University School of Medicine.  He used it  to describe the way that excess glutamate destroys brain cells.
When he added small amounts of monosodium glutamate to brain  cells in a culture, he noticed that the cells began to shrivel up and die after  about an hour.  He noted that just before  this happened the neurons were firing very rapidly – suggesting that they were  burning themselves up.  From that comes  the name combining the words excito (excite) and toxicity (poison).

Since that time, neuroscientists have discovered that  glutamate was not just any neurotransmitter, but, in fact, the most abundant  neurotransmitter in the brain, accounting for more than 90 percent of the  communication in the brain’s cortex and more than 50 percent of all  communication in the entire brain.  Glutamate  receptors play an important role in regulating other neurotransmitters.

Glutamate receptors are now being shown to play a major role  in a growing list of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including:

Alzheimer’s disease  Parkinson’s disease  Depression  Anxiety  Schizophrenia  Autism  ADHD  Chronic Pain  Addiction  Strokes

Under normal conditions, glutamate doesn’t damage cells in  the brain because they are inside the cells in the brain.  Humans have developed protective mechanisms  that keep glutamate mostly within the brain cells, and it only damages the  brain if it is outside cells where receptors are located.  Brain disorders such as stroke, trauma,  neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), and heavy metal  poisoning result in a loss of brain energy.   This means that when these disorders are present even small exposures to  dietary excitotoxins can cause brain damage.

Also, as we age, our brain energy decreases and our  protective systems begin to falter, so our brains become progressively more  inflamed.  Together, these factors make  us extra sensitive to dietary excitotoxins, and our brains begin to leak  glutamate.  This is why the incidence of  Alzheimer’s disease goes from around 3 percent at 65 to nearly 50 percent at  age 80.

Exposure to high levels of glutamate in the diet may also  explain the epidemic of obesity among the young and even among older  people.  MSG additives were introduced to  the public on a grand scale via processed foods in 1948.  Now they are used everywhere, as almost all  processed foods have some form of this additive.  Try it…read some labels and you will find this  chemical on most processed food products.

Excess dietary glutamate during pregnancy and early  childhood can cause a child’s brain wiring to develop abnormally.  This can learn to cognitive difficulties as  well as behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, aggressiveness and  impulsive violence.

When excitotoxic foods are ingested, they are carried from  the gastrointestinal tract to the liver via the portal vein.  This makes the liver very susceptible to  damage because it is exposed to the highest concentration of glutamate.  Studies have shown that dietary MSG raises  inflammation, and causes a massive production of free radicals in the liver  that can persist for a very long time.

MSG-induced inflammation of the brain’s blood supply opens  the blood brain barrier, which is the separation of circulating blood from the  brain’s extracellular fluid.  When this  barrier is opened because of inflammation, there is an influx of glutamate into  the brain after each meal.

The best way to protect yourself against glutamate is to  avoid additives such as MSG altogether.   Exercise also reduces blood glutamate levels, mainly by increasing the  use of glutamate for muscle energy production.   A number of natural substances found in plant-based diets have been  shown to be very protective against glutamine toxicity. These include:

Magnesium  Selenium  Vitamin B6 (as pyridoxal-5-phosphateB vitamins  Folate  Flavonoids (such as curcumin, quercetin, apigenin, ferulic  acid, and luteolin)  Silymarin  Biacalein  Grape Seed Extract  DHA  Vitamin D3  Hawthorn extract

Foods and additives that increase inflammation also will  worsen toxicity.  Sugars (especially high  fructose corn syrup), fluoroaluminum (fluorinated drinking water) and  chlorinated water all have this effect.

For more information about the symptoms and protective  supplements, be sure to visit Dr. Dave at


This report was compiled by L.W. Heinrichs

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