Excitotoxins - The basics of MSG and aspartame

Pioneer brain researcher Dr. John Olney first coined the term 'excitotoxin.' He discovered in the 1960s that monosodium glutamate (MSG), a potent excitotoxin, caused his laboratory rats to become obese. The artificial sweetener aspartame, more popularly recognized by its trade names Nutrasweet and Equal, is an excitotoxin.

A study found that MSG caused retinal damage in newborn mice, rats, and chicks.

In 1969 Dr. John Olney fed MSG to laboratory rats. The rats suffered brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders. Infant laboratory rats who were given free glutamic acid suffered immediate brain injury, and different neuroendocrine disorders at a later stage in life.

What makes the obesity that MSG produces especially dangerous is the type of fat it creates. MSG produces visceral or abdominal fat. This fat lies deep inside the abdominal region and is responsible for inflammation.

Excitotoxins also create free radicals, leading to further inflammation.




From an interview with Dr Russel Blaylock  


Published by Truth Publishing  (2005)


Glutamate receptors in the body

We discovered that outside of the brain, there are numerous glutamate receptors in all organs and tissues. The entire GI tract, from the esophagus to the colon, has numerous glutamate receptors. The entire electrical conducting system of a heart is replete with all sorts of glutamate receptors. The lungs, the ovaries, all the reproductive systems and sperm itself, adrenal glands, bones and even the pancreas are all controlled by glutamate receptors. They act and operate exactly like the glutamate receptors in the brain.


MSG ingestion and effects

When you're consuming MSG, the level of glutamate in the blood can rise as high as 20-fold. You get very high glutamate levels in the blood after eating a meal containing MSG. You're stimulating all of the glutamate receptors. That's why some people get explosive diarrhea and dyspepsia, because it stimulates the receptors in the esophagus and small bowel. Others may develop irritable bowel, or if they have irritable bowel, it makes it a lot worse. If they have reflux, it makes that a lot worse. The thing about the cardiac conduction system glutamate receptors is this may explain the rise in sudden cardiac death.

What you see in almost all these cases is low magnesium. When the magnesium level is low, the glutamate receptors become hypersensitive, and so people—athletes in particular, if they are not supplementing with magnesium—are prone to sudden cardiac death, because of the glutamate receptors.

If they eat a meal or something that contains glutamate or drink a diet cola before practice, it will produce such intense cardiac irritability, they'll die of sudden cardiac death. We know the sudden cardiac death is due to two things: Most commonly arrhythmia and coronary artery spasm. Both of which can be produced by glutamate.


Hidden MSG

In the 1970s baby food manufacturers voluntarily supposedly removed MSG from their products. What they actually did is take out pure MSG and substitute it with hydrolyzed protein and caseinate. If you look at a number of toddler foods, many have caseinate, hydrolyzed protein, soy extracts, broth, all a significant source of glutamate.

One early observation with exitotoxicity is it makes animals grossly obese. Now one of the things we're hearing a lot about is childhood obesity.

Soybeans, naturally, have one of the highest glutamate levels of any of the plant products. When you hydrolyze it, you release the glutamate, such as with the soy protein isolates. The glutamate levels are higher than a lot of what you'll find in other MSG-contaning products, yet the vegetarians are just eating it like it's the healthiest thing in the world. There was a 25-year study done, which looked at people who consumed the most soy products, and they followed them for 25 years and did serial CT scans of their brain. They found out that the people who consumed the most soybean products had the greatest incidence of dementia and brain atrophy.

In addition, you have very high manganese levels, which is toxic to the very same part of the brain that produces Parkinson's. You've got a mixture of toxins with soy products, and the people think they are eating a healthy, nutritious product. It's destroying their nervous system, as well as other organs.


Excitotoxins and Cancer

Excitotoxins have been found to dramatically promote cancer growth and metastasis. In fact, one excitotoxin researcher noticed that, when cancer cells were exposed to glutamate, they became more mobile, and you see the same effect with MSG. It also causes a cancer cell to become more mobile, and that enhances metastasis, or spread. These MSG-exposed cancer cells developed all of these pseudopodia and started moving through tissues, which is one of the earlier observations from cancer.

When the glutamate level is increased, cancer just grows like wildfire, and then when you block glutamate, it dramatically slows the growth of the cancer.

Researchers have done some experiments in which they looked at using glutamate blockers in combination with conventional drugs, like chemotherapy, and it worked very well. It significantly enhanced the effectiveness of these cancer drugs.

An Italian study was very well done. It was a lifetime study, which is very important with these toxins. They fed animals aspartame throughout their lives and let them die a natural death. They found a dramatic and statistically significant increase in the related cancers of lymphoma and leukemia, along with several histological types of lymphomas, which is of interest because H.J. Roberts had written an article saying that there was a significant increase in the primary lymphoma of the brain.

When you look it up in the neurosurgical literature, there is a rather significant rise in the incidence of what used to be a rare tumor. We're seeing a lot more of the primary lymphoma of the brain, which is a little different than lymphomas you see elsewhere. When you look back at the original studies done by the G.D. Searle company, they found lymphomas as well as primary brain tumors and tumors of multiple organs. All of this correlation shows that we've got a powerful carcinogenic substance here. It is either acting as a co-carcinogen or a primary carcinogen. Most likely, it's the formaldehyde breakdown product.


Excitotoxins and DNA damage

An Italian study found that if you take these same animals and expose them to formaldehyde in the same doses, they developed the same leukemias and lymphomas. If you look back at the Trocho Study conducted in Spain a couple of years ago, what they found was when they radio labeled the aspartame, they could actually see formaldehyde binding to the DNA, and it produced both single and double strand DNA breakage.

We know that when formaldehyde binds to DNA, it's very difficult to remove it. It will stay there for long periods of time. What that means is if you just drink a single diet cola today, or sweeten something with NutraSweet, you're accumulating damage every day. Eventually, you're going to produce this necessary pattern of DNA damage to initiate the cancer, and once you develop the cancer, the aspartic acid component of aspartame will make the cancer grow very rapidly. You've got a double effect; it's causing the cancer, and it's making the cancer multiply very rapidly.


Suppression of information

Donald Rumsfeld was the one who managed to suppress this information and keep this chemical legal in the food supply, when he was in the chairmanship of the G.D. Searle company, NutraSweet division. He got it approved through the regulatory process, but once it was approved, the government didn't want to admit that they had made a mistake.

Journals like the Journal of Clinical Nutrition or Journal of the American College of Nutrition are funded by the Monsanto Company, and they used to be sponsored by G.D. Searle. They're not going to want to put articles in their journal that will infuriate their primary source of income.


Misleading information about protection from glutamate

All that nonsense about the brain being protected from glutamate by the blood-brain barrier was a lie. What researchers have shown is that there are glutamate receptors on both sides of the blood brain barrier and that when you expose these receptors to glutamate, it opens up the blood brain barrier. So, the glutamate itself can open the barrier, and in my book I list all the conditions under which the barrier is broken. For instance, as you get older, your barrier becomes less competent. Almost all Alzheimer's patients have incompetent barriers. Heat stroke, seizures, autoimmune disorders and multiple sclerosis are all associated with an incompetent blood brain barrier.

If you look at the neuroscience literature, the hottest topic in neurosciences is glutamate receptors and excitotoxins as chemicals and what happens when the receptors are activated.


Natural glutamate

Glutamate appears naturally in other foods, like tomatoes and seaweed and in all of these types of glutamate are bound. They're in oligopeptides, polypeptides. They are bound in amino acid groupings. They're not free amino acids. If you have it as a complex protein, you absorb it slowly in your GI tract. In the GI tract, there are almost no free amino acids if you eat foods such as tomatoes. The level of free amino acids is nil; it's almost all absorbed as combined amino acids, and then it's only broken down in the liver, where it's released in very low concentrations that the body can deal with. Our bodies were never intended to have free amino acids in such high concentrations.


Artificial glutamate

When these proteins are hydrolyzed —or yeast extract or enzymes are used to break down these various proteins into their free, released amino acids—they're not natural any longer. What happens is an artificially release of amino acids in an unnatural way, and when they enter the GI tract, they are absorbed as free amino acids, and blood levels of that glutamic acid go up significantly. It can go up as high as 20-fold, in some cases 40-fold. The blood brain barrier is not constructed to handle such high levels of glutamate, because it doesn't naturally occur that way. It can handle the lower levels, but it can't handle these very high levels.


Counteracting high glutamate levels

There are a lot of substances that act as glutamate receptor blockers. For example silymarin, curcumin and ginkgo biloba. These substances are known to directly block glutamate receptors and reduce excitotoxicity. Curcumin is very potent. Most of the flavonoids reduce excitotoxicity.

Magnesium is particularly important, because magnesium can block the NMDA glutamate type receptor. That's its natural function, so it significantly reduces toxicity. Vitamin E succinate is powerful at inhibiting excitotoxicity, as are all of your antioxidants. They found combinations of B vitamins also block excitotoxicity.


Concerns about glutamate in:


In restaurants white sauces are particularly high in glutamate, as are salad dressings, especially the ones that are creamy, but not the ones that are pure oil. Gravy mixes almost always have hydrolyzed protein in it. Restaurants are selling taste.


Soy infant formulas

There is concern about the popularity of soy infant formulas. Mothers are crazy to give their kids soy formula. There is concern about the fluoride level, the manganese level, and the glutamate levels in these soy infant formulas.



The American Diabetes Association strongly supports aspartame. They receive huge amounts of money from the makers of aspartame. They fund their walk-a-thon and all that kind of stuff, so they get tremendous amounts of money from the makers of aspartame.



Aspartame is not a necessary nutrient, and neither is MSG. If you want to avoid obesity, metabolic syndrome, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer, and if you don't want to make your cancer more aggressive, then you need to stay away from these products.

The damage affects pregnant women, unborn babies and newborns. It can produce changes in the brain that are irreversible, depending on when it is stopped. What we've found is that it reprograms the wiring of the brain, particularly the hypothalamus, so it doesn't function normally. These children are abnormal for the rest of their lives in terms of their physiological function.