MSG is High Voltage to My Brain

Paul Goettlich 18 Aug 2020

My Brain on MSG

Shopping for groceries requires endless stores of energy. It takes less physical energy than psychological, but stamina to withstand the advertising assault of 8-ft high walls of shelves hundreds of feet long. Each item screaming for attention in a sea of misrepresentations such as gluten free olive oil.

A typical American shopper strolls down aisles, selecting packaged items, seemingly at random, by type of food and weight, without regard for the additives. Price and quantity rules over quality and purity, with infallibly blind trust in the great American brand names. Their large shopping carts overflow as they queue up to check out. I’m envious because I must be significantly more diligent about ingredients. In fact, I have little use for more than 80% of the items in any grocery store, including the so-called natural stores. I focus on whole, unprocessed foods and avoid most packaged foods. There are exceptions like pasta and canned tomatoes. Focus your sights on foods with as little processing as possible.

I also try to get only certified organic foods if possible because the regulations for them is significantly higher. Organic foods provide more nutrition, especially those grown on small farms by the practices of biodynamic agriculture as developed by Rudolf Steiner. Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It uses no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides like most commercial agriculture. A short (2:30) film on YouTube: What Is Biodynamic Farming? This is beyond organic farming by the way it attempts to create self-sufficient farms.

Never believe anyone who tells you that pesticides can be washed off. Crops grown with these synthetic chemicals are never free of them. If you eat them they become you. In fact, those pesticide-ridden vegetables you eat pass on through your body into your children, their children and on for several generations, disturbing various organs of your body.

I entirely avoid aisles with scented cleaning products such as Tide, which totally annihilate my lungs. Fragrances are a whole other topic that have affected me quite severely. Incredibly, both MSG and fragrances are common in most hospitals. Even more startling, the staff and medical professionals in hospitals are the last people to ask. Totally clueless and unhelpful. They’re quite rude when one is persistent in demanding to be free of them while in their care. Allergists seem about the same. Perhaps there are some that understand. The huge hospital in Portland, Oregon claims to be scent free but it fails to educate its staff and the public passing through daily. A large percentage of the nurses regularly wash their uniforms and clothes with strongly scented detergents like Tide. Most of them don’t even know about the scent ban. This is something to consider prior to entering a hospital for a serious operation. You’ll be at the mercy of people who don’t even know that their scents can cause us to struggle breathing.

Semper vigilanti

The number one food ingredient I avoid is MSG, which is no easy task. The labels appear safe, stating “no added MSG” in big bold letters. But go immediately to the ingredients list. Of course, there will be no MSG labelled as such. The standard big-name brands of electric orange corn doodles and barbecue flavor generally make no secret of the MSG content because the people who eat that stuff don’t know and don’t care. They just want that extra punch from the additives.

The one snack food I crave the most is flavored chips. And in a moments of weakness I’ve forgotten that I’m extremely sensitive to this poison MSG. Flavored chips invariably have MSG or MSG-like chemicals in and on them.

Just one chip will keep me awake all night, itching, twitching and nail biting. They’re flavored and doused with manufactured free glutamates, sometimes in greater numbers than the other ingredients. A few that hurt me are yeast extract, spice, and spice extract, all of which are high in glutamate. The free glutamate in them is not as high in concentration as MSG, but high enough individually to deprive me of sleep. When more than one of those ingredients are combined into one product, it can be disastrous. This list is worth reading: “Names of ingredients that contain Manufactured free Glutamate (MfG)” It’s at the Truth in Labeling website, which is the most comprehensive and informative I have seen. When you visit them, please mention how you learned about them. But also browse their amazing website.

Remember Fermentation!

The 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. I avoid eating fermented foods after noon. That includes yogurt type foods. If I’m not vigilant, I will be awake all night. As I got older, I became more sensitive, requiring a large change in my diet.

I no longer eat three meals a day. I have my normal breakfast of a small bowl of oatmeal (porridge) with one-quarter apple, a tablespoon of yogurt, blueberries when in season, one date or a couple dried prunes, with a cup of tea. Many people have to avoid eating these foods even as early as 6:00am. My body might get to that point as well.

For lunch I’ve been having 2 ounces (50g) of chicken or salmon with a small green salad. I can eat pretty much anything as long as it isn’t contaminated with manufactured glutamic acid of one kind or another. And there are too many to remember.

Then at about 5:00pm I’ll have another one-quarter apple, a slice of celery and a cup of tea. There are many variations in lunch, but few at the last meal, which is more of a snack. I never feel hungry during the night, and wake without hunger.

So far, my body can handle yogurt, cheese, crackers and bread if eaten first thing in the morning or a lunch before noon. But I avoid them after lunch. Every once in a while, I think that just one small corner of a cracker won’t hurt. And I am always reminded by a lack of sleep that it is not OK. The same goes for sweet fruits like prunes or dates. I’ll be awake from sweets, but not lit up like with MSG stuff. Even though kombu seaweed is low in glutamic acid I’ve been affected by eating it. I can have no soy sauce. And no miso as it is produced by fermenting soybeans.

MSG Industry Lies

There’s a world of MSG misinformation and disinformation on the internet. Misinformation is given innocently and ignorantly. Disinformation is given intentionally and with malice. Manufacturers flood the internet with a wide variety of websites that appear different in many ways. But their information is false when they claim that MSG is safe.

As a prime example, the Wall Street Journal interviewed the president of the world’s largest MSG manufacturer, Takaaki Nishii. In this interview, his comments are more like Trump than those of a wealthy, well-schooled corporate head. I pasted the entire article at the bottom. His accusatory rhetoric has no factual value. It is meant only to deceive in order to increase his profits.

See this article at the bottom: The FDA Says It’s Safe, So Feel Free to Say ‘Yes’ to MSG: Ajinomoto is trying to convince Americans that its seasoning is good to eat—and maybe even healthy. by River Davis / Wall Street Journal 27 Apr 2019

Then somewhere between corporate disinformation of Takaaki Nishii and the truth is half-truths such from this writer from the world-famous Mayo Clinic, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. She claims that “. . . researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and these symptoms.” Well, they obviously missed something in their research.[i] It seems unlikely when the Mayo Clinic employs over 4,500 physicians and scientists, along with another 58,400 administrative and allied health staff. Plus, the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine spends over $660 million a year on research and has more than 3,000 full-time research personnel.[ii] I fully suspect an illicit action that gets a major institution such as this to obfuscate the issue of MSG allergy.

Scientific Truth

If one ignores the popular press and seeks information from medical journals, one will find a world of harm that MSG and its mimics cause. A quick search of PubMed[iii] will reveal that the industry’s claim that there are no studies that tell of the harms of MSG are false. This URL is a search only for the term MSG Read just a few abstracts and it becomes painfully obvious that the industry lies every step of the way.

Here is a small part of one abstract from a scientific journal:
“Several studies revealed that MSG has toxic effect on fetal development/fetus, children’s, adolescent, and adults. Physiological complication associated with MSG toxicity are hypertension, obesity, gastrointestinal tract troubles, and impairment of function of brain, nervous system, reproductive, and endocrine system”[iv]

My intention with this article is illustrate the deception rather than completely define just that one deception of MSG in foods. Complain to the FDA about poisons being in your foods is just as futile as finding accurate truthful information.  Beware that others have tried and gotten nowhere. It has been this way for the 20 years I’ve been writing.

Years ago, I corresponded with Adrienne Samuels, PhD, who with her MSG-sensitive husband Jack Samuels, attempted to find truth and justice at the FDA. It’s pointed out in the forward of Dr Samuels’ book, “The Man Who Sued the FDA,” the original mandate of the FDA was to protect consumers from harm, adulteration and deception. But as one becomes more educated in the modus operandi of the FDA, it becomes clear that this is not their prime objective. Instead it is to con the public into trusting that US food producers create wholesome, trustworthy foods when in fact they do not. And as each year goes by, our food becomes increasingly less healthy and more toxic.

Dr. Samuels’ book is a lesson to all who have any idea of bringing truth to the FDA, USDA, EPA, CPSC or any other branch of US government. The truth crusader will be inhaled, ingested, drained and dehydrated, leaving a withered soul knowing only what they haven’t accomplished. What she has done however is to illustrate to countless others what she and her husband discovered along the way – that the MSG industry has overwhelmed the FDA and other regulatory agencies. There is zero truth about MSG in any of them.

Dr Samuels has an incredibly useful website I strongly suggest referring to it. The MSG industry has had sway over the FDA for decades. Even searching on FDA for MSG brings back mostly industry gibberish that was written by the MSG industry. It is quite difficult to know the truth about it when the industry spends so much in disinformation.

Long before her book I read “In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome” by George R Schwartz, MD. His book was my first clue about why I wasn’t sleeping at night, why I lay in bed with my head ablaze, biting my fingernails to the quick. While I’m on books, get these as well: “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills” by Russell L. Blaylock, MD and “While Science Sleeps: A Sweetener Kills” by Woodrow C. Monte, PhD.

The most important thing to remember it that the government regulatory agencies are more on the side of corporate producers than on our side. Their actual purpose is not to protect us, but to protect corporations by giving the impression that we are safe under their care. We’re on our own. And with regard to MSG or any other food additives, the information from our government is false and dangerous. The regulations allow manufacturers to produce foods that are not chemically safe.

I suggest directing MSG questions to the Truth in Labeling people on their Facebook page.

Most of all I wish you happiness in finding the truth your own individual food issues. It took me more than a decade to figure out all mine.

Note: Highlighted words below indicate misleading rhetoric by the president of the largest MSG manufacturer

The FDA Says It’s Safe,
So Feel Free to Say ‘Yes’ to MSG

Ajinomoto is trying to convince Americans that its seasoning is good to eat—and maybe even healthy

River Davis / Wall Street Journal 27 Apr 2019

TOKYO—When restaurants across America put signs in their windows vowing never to use your company’s flagship product, you might have a problem.

That realization has dawned on Ajinomoto Co. of Tokyo, founded more than a century ago to make the seasoning monosodium glutamate, or MSG. The company is in the middle of a $10 million, three-year campaign to persuade Americans that MSG is safe–and maybe even good for you, if it helps you eat less salt.

One argument advanced by Ajinomoto and its supporters: Americans were too quick to blame MSG for a collection of symptoms termed “Chinese restaurant syndrome” because of stereotypes about Asians. They say xenophobia, not science, explains the initial anti-MSG push a half-century ago that lingers today despite no definitive evidence that MSG causes sickness in humans.

Out-of-Favor Flavor

What’s it in? MSG is found naturally in some foods like yeast, tomatoes and cheese, and is commonly added to others, including chips, soups, frozen dinners and ranch dressing. When added to food, the FDA requires MSG to be listed among ingredients as monosodium glutamate.

The image issue: Four in 10 Americans say they actively avoid MSG and many people identify themselves as sensitive to it. The average American consumes around half a gram of added MSG a day, according to the FDA.

Is it bad for you? Studies have found no conclusive evidence that MSG has any adverse health effects on the vast majority of people when consumed in normal concentrations.

Is it good for you? MSG is about 12% sodium, roughly one-third of the 39% in table salt. Makers of MSG say that when sprinkled on food it can help people reduce their salt consumption.

At Ajinomoto’s Tokyo headquarters, the company’s president, Takaaki Nishii, proudly holds up a bottle of the white powder, shaped like a chubby panda, and says that unless you’re planning to consume 50 pounds in one sitting, the old talk of MSG risks is rubbish.

“I want to convey to the American people that this is fake news,” says Mr. Nishii. “It was passed down from grandmothers to mothers to children.”

 MSG as a commercial seasoning sprang from the research of Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda. In 1908, he changed the world’s understanding of flavor when he coined the term “umami” to describe a distinct savory taste he found in a traditional Japanese broth made of dried kombu seaweed.

Shortly after, a business was born distilling this broth into a white crystal form and packaging it as “Ajinomoto,” meaning in Japanese “the origin of flavor.” The company, Ajinomoto Co., took its name from the seasoning. It spread quickly around the world, setting up shop in New York in 1917.

Today, Ajinomoto counts many of the biggest food companies among its customers, with a plant in Eddyville, Iowa, turning out MSG for foods like potato chips and chicken noodle soup. Ajinomoto claims a 20% share of the global MSG market, with food companies based in China also holding a large share.

For all the anti-MSG sentiment, global consumption of the powder was 3.26 million tons last year, an increase of 23% from 2010, according to Ajinomoto. The Food and Drug Administration puts MSG in the category of foods “generally recognized as safe” and estimates that the average American consumes around half a gram of added MSG per day.

Even so, four out of 10 Americans say that they actively avoid MSG, according to the International Food Information Council, an industry-funded nonprofit.

Thus the $10 million campaign, which is soon to include sponsored articles on BuzzFeed touting MSG’s merits. The company is targeting dieticians and chefs with MSG tastings where participants are invited to try a bowl of chicken soup before and after the powder is stirred in.

Ajinomoto wants to repair MSG’s image by linking it with umami, a more favorable word signifying a rich or savory taste. The word is increasingly recognized by American food fans after research showed the tongue has umami receptors. As Ajinomoto sees it, MSG is just an industrially produced version of the same umami-creating substances found naturally in foods such as tomatoes and cheese.

MSG’s problems began with a 1968 letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine[i] from a doctor who said he felt numbness and palpitations after eating Chinese food. He proposed that MSG additives could be the culprit for something the journal called Chinese restaurant syndrome.

It struck a chord with the media and consumers at the time, and soon restaurants around the U.S. began hanging “No MSG” signs on their store windows.

Culinary historian Sarah Lohman says the idea of Chinese restaurant syndrome caught on with Americans who were quick to imagine that their discomfort after a heavy meal came from Asian chefs slipping a dodgy powder into the food.

Symptoms involving MSG “were being talked about within the context of Chinese food, but not at all talked about within the context of American processed foods,” says Ms. Lohman. “So, there is not only a little sprinkle of MSG in here, but a big dose of xenophobia.”

Ajinomoto President Takaaki Nishii says the old talk of MSG risks is rubbish.

Jordan Sand, a professor of Japanese history and culture at Georgetown University, takes a different view. He says a lot of food additives and chemicals were raising fears in the 1960s and 1970s, including sugar alternatives that were linked to cancer.

Whatever the reason, many restaurant owners still feel a “No MSG” sign helps show their commitment to food safety. One of them is Tran Minh, who owns a popular Asian restaurant in Portland, Ore., that went MSG-free about seven years ago.

“There’s a lot of demand for non-MSG food in Portland,” says Mr. Minh. He says he has to brew his broths for 48 hours to make up for the lost umami flavors, and he wonders whether all the restaurants claiming to be MSG-free go to such lengths or take the forbidden shortcut.

Mr. Nishii of Ajinomoto says he feels disappointed when he sees such signs, but he says company polls show gradual improvement in consumer opinions.

“Americans say that they hate MSG but they continue to eat lots of it,” he says. “The knowledge that it’s healthy is in their minds, but they’re just not fully acting on it yet.”

accessed online through a library account 19 Aug 2020


[i] Kwok RH. Chinese-restaurant syndrome. N Engl J Med. 1968;278(14):796. doi:10.1056/nejm196804042781419

[i] What is MSG? Is it bad for you? Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. / Mayo Clinic  assessed 18 Aug 2020

[ii] Mayo Clinic From Wikipedia.  accessed 18 Aug 2020

[iii] PubMed is a free search engine accessing primarily the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. The United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health maintain the database as part of the Entrez system of information retrieval.

[iv] Chakraborty SP. Patho-physiological and toxicological aspects of monosodium glutamate. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2019;29(6):389-396. doi:10.1080/15376516.2018.1528649

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