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Found everywhere as an additive in your food, new research has uncovered that this "flavor enhancer" is extremely toxic, causing a battery of adverse health effects within normal dietary ranges.
A new study published in the Journal of Headache Pain reveals that a single intake of monosodium glutamate (MSG) produces headache in the majority of healthy subjects tested.[i]
The researchers conducted a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover study to examine the effect of repeated MSG intake on the following:
- Spontaneous pain
- Mechanical sensitivity of masticatory muscles (the four muscles that move the jaw laterally)
- Side effects
- Blood pressure
The study method was described as follows:
"Fourteen healthy subjects participated in 5 daily sessions for one week of MSG intake (150 mg/kg) or placebo (24 mg/kg NaCl) (randomized, double-blinded). Spontaneous pain, pressure pain thresholds and tolerance levels for the masseter and temporalis muscles, side effects, and blood pressure were evaluated before and 15, 30, and 50 min after MSG intake. Whole saliva samples were taken before and 30 min after MSG intake to assess glutamate concentrations."
The results were as follows:
- Headache occurred in 8/14 subjects during MSG and 2/14 during placebo.
- Salivary glutamate concentrations on Day 5 were elevated significantly (P < 0.05).
- Pressure pain thresholds in masseter muscle were reduced (i.e. pain increased) by MSG on Day 2 and 5 (P < 0.05).
- Blood pressure was significantly elevated after MSG (P < 0.040).
- Tolerance did not develop over 5 days of MSG intake.
Also, a wide range of side effects were observed to occur in much greater frequency in the MSG group, including:
- Sore Jaw
- Stomach Ache
- Chest Pressure
This study has profound implications, insofar as the majority of packaged and prepared foods on the market today have either monosodium glutamate added, or a glutamate rich 'food concentrate' intended to model its flavor-enhancing effects, e.g. "hydrolyzed soy protein," "yeast extract," etc. It is therefore nearly impossible to avoid it, unless you are eating a whole food based diet, or one where you are preparing your foods from scratch. For those suffering from the battery of health complaints listed above, MSG avoidance should be a vital part of your strategy to improve your health through diet.
This study also has profound implications for the treatment of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD). According to the study, TMD affects approximately 10% of the population, [ii] [iii] with the chief symptom leading the patient to seek medical attention being pain in the temporomandibular joint and/or masticatory muscles. Interestingly, 70% of TMD sufferers report masticatory muscle pain and are described as suffering from myofascial TMD, [iv] despite the fact that there is little evidence of ongoing pathological change in masticatory muscles. It has been hypothesized that dietary triggers might aggravate craniofacial pain conditions, but until now little to no research has been conducted on their link with MSG. Because the doses used in the study (150 mg/kg) are within the daily total dietary ranges of glutamate consumption (50–200 mg/kg/day),[v] it is likely that the high prevalence of TMD without obvious pathological lesions within glutamate consuming populations may be due to MSG.
MSG Has A Broad Range of Adverse Health Effects
MSG is a neurotoxic and endocrine disruptive substance, linked to over a dozen health conditions. You can peruse the first-hand published research on our problem substances database: monosodium glutamate. In a previous article, "MSG: Drug, Poison or Flavor Enhancer," we focused on the excitotoxic mechanism by which it 'enhances flavor' in a drug-like fashion, while at the same time damaging neurons, in addition to its ability to contribute to metabolic syndrome: a cluster of pathologies including insulin resistance, weight gain, altered blood lipid profiles, and hypertension. If it is so harmful, why does everyone use it? Because it makes food taste better, and causes a profound craving for more, in a vicious not that different from an illicit drug.
[i] Akiko Shimada, Brian E Cairns, Nynne Vad, Kathrine Ulriksen, Anne Marie Lynge Pedersen, Peter Svensson, Lene Baad-Hansen. Headache and mechanical sensitization of human pericranial muscles after repeated intake of monosodium glutamate (MSG). J Headache Pain. 2013 Dec ;14(1):2. Epub 2013 Jan 24. PMID: 23565943
[ii] · Cairns BE. Pathophysiology of TMD pain - basic mechanisms and their implications for pharmacotherapy. J Oral Rehabil. 2010;14:391–410. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2842.2010.02074.x. [PubMed] [Ref list]
[iii] LeResche L, Drangsholt M. In: Orofacial pain: from basic science to clinical management. Sessle BJ, Lavigne GJ, Lund JP, Dubner R, editor. Quintessence Books, Illinois; 2008. Epidemiology of orofacial pain: prevalence, incidence, and risk factors; pp. 13–18. [Ref list]
[iv] Lobbezoo F, Drangsholt MT, Peck C, Sato H, Kopp S, Svensson P. Topical review: new insights into the pathology and diagnosis of disorders of the temporomandibular joint. J Orofac Pain. 2004;14:181–191. [PubMed] [Ref list]
[v] Geha RS, Beiser A, Ren C, Patterson R, Greenberger PA, Grammer LC, Ditto AM, Harris KE, Shaughnessy MA, Yarnold PR, Corren J, Saxon A. Review of alleged reaction to monosodium glutamate and outcome of a multicenter double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Nutr. 2000;14(4S Suppl):58S–62S. [PubMed] [Ref list]