You are here: Home > Health Articles > Foods > Excitotoxins (Food Additives)

Excitotoxins (Food Additives)

Note from Carolyn:
I love the way Dr. Gilbere says it like it is, and has the science to back up what she says. I have taken her Wholistic Rejuvenation classes, and it has changed the way I look at ingedients in my foods, deodorants, hair products, soaps, household cleaners and air fresheners. They all impact our health, and added together they can make a very big impact!
Article continues ...

Cognitive & Eye Disorders on the Rise – Could Chemical Cuisine be the Cause?

The Eyes Have It  Eyes2

According to global reports, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) blindness and visual impairment project, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the primary cause of visual impairment in industrialized countries, accounting for 19% to 30% of the total cases of low vision in developed regions. Projected data estimates a 50% increase of ARMD prevalence between 2000 and 2020.  Evidence now shows there is a definite connection related to chemical components of our foods, lifestyle and eye disorders.

The Cognitive Connection

According to research outlined in multiple sources, incidence of cognitive disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia are predicted to increase; in 2006 there were 26.6 million diagnosed worldwide. Alzheimer's is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050 – this alarming trend is expected to accelerate as baby boomers begin turning 65 in 2011. Research continues to mount connecting incidence of these diseases to chemical exposure, particularly chemicals in our food.

The Dietary Connection

Chemicals enter the body through a variety of pathways – significantly, daily exposure has the most detrimental effect.  You ARE a victim of toxic substances every time you shop for groceries, unless everything you purchase is “live” food – fresh, fresh-frozen and unprepared.

Many believe that since food additives are often included in small quantities their presence doesn’t really harm you. WRONG. It’s a matter of decreased tolerance by slowly adding to our overall toxic burden – eventually when our “cup runneth over” our biological systems create symptoms so that we “heed the warning” before we develop serious disorders – cognitive and eye disorders and inflammation being at the forefront. We now also know that genetically modified food is capable of producing a protein that can stay in our intestinal tract and do damage for years, or generations…no one knows for sure yet!

Excitotoxins – What they are…
They are taste enhancers found abundantly in many food products – shown to cause damage to brain cells although food manufacturers continue to insist they are safe. In recent years, many health experts regard both excitotoxins and manufacturers’ assurances with increasing concern. Excitotoxins are a class of chemicals (usually amino acids) that over-stimulate neuron receptors.  For this reason, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has put both aspartame and MSG on its list of food additives to avoid.

Excitotoxins are believed to be the cause of manydegenerative cognitive diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease, according to extensive research by neurosurgeon, Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD. Recent research suggests that regularly consuming excitotoxins, like MSG and aspartame, for extended periods of time can destroy significant numbers of brain cells and lead to serious health problems, including seizures, strokes and tremors.Additionally, Dr. Blaylock’s research points toa link between excitotoxins and human neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, eye diseases and many other disorders.             

Excitotoxins – What they cause…

There are many studies documenting the dangers of excitotoxins. One study in 1957 by Lucas and Newhouse, Ophthalmology residents, studied the affects of MSG on animals and found that 100% of the nerve cells in the inner layer of the retina were completely destroyed by the introduction of MSG – is it any wonder baby-boomers are experiencing visual disorders more so than in any time in history?

In 1968, Dr. Olney, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University in St. Louis, repeated the same tests and found the same retinal destruction in addition to widespread destruction of the neurons to the hypothalamus and adjacent areas of the brain – both studies showed the worst destruction in newborn and immature animals. Similar damage was demonstrated when NutraSweet was used in the tests instead of MSG. The exposed animals also grew up, as adults, to be shorter in stature, obese and to have reproductive problems as well as an early onset of puberty. Thanks to Dr. Olney’s efforts, MSG was voluntarily removed from baby food in 1969 – the child’s brain is four times more sensitive to MSG than the adult brain.

Humans are also more sensitive to excitotoxin exposure than any other species. Blood levels of MSG in humans are 20 times higher than a similar exposure in monkeys and 5 times higher than in mice. Human MSG levels remain elevated in the blood and brain for an extended time more than demonstrated in any other species.

Excitotoxins – Concerns
Within the brain we know there are at least three types of glutamate receptors (There may be as many as 20 more sub-types.) – MSG triggers all three glutamate brain receptors to fire.

Zinc, magnesium and glycine are like system locks that block the calcium channel from staying open in the presence of unwanted toxins – basically shutting the door. The American diet is typically very low in zinc and magnesium – causing the door to the neuron to remain open in the presence of MSG or other excitotoxins, thus forcing the neuron to continually fire until it becomes exhausted and dies.

Areas of the brain with the highest number of glutamate receptors are most sensitive to injury from excitotoxins. These include: the cortex, striatum, hippocampus, hypothalamus, thalamus, cerebellum, and visual and auditory systems. Excitotoxins MSG and synthetic sweeteners activate a number of brain systems that affect sensory perception, memory, orientation to time and space, cognition and motor skills – excitotoxin exposure is cumulative.

Historical Perspective:

→       Cereal used to mean a bowl of wholesome grain (oatmeal or wheat flakes). Now it’s puffed wheat or processed with added butylated hydroxyanisole as an antioxidant, sodium acetate as a buffer, red No. 2 dye, yellow No. 5 dye, and aluminum ammonium sulfate, an acid – sound appetizing?

→       Bread was made of flour, water, salt, and lard. Today it contains sodium diacetate (mold inhibitor), monoglycerides (emulsifier), potassium bromate (maturing agent), aluminum phosphate (dough enhancer), calcium phosphate monobasic (dough conditioner), chloromine T (bleach), and aluminum potassium sulfate as a pH adjuster.

→       Butter in the “good old days” was churned cream with a little salt. Today it has hydrogen peroxide (bleaching agent), yellow No. 3 coloring and nordihydroguaiaretic acid (antioxidant) – these are minimum additives.

→       Cottage cheese in my day (Oh my gosh, I am sounding like my grandmother) was the curds from the unpasteurized whole milk of a healthy cow. Now it contains dyes, diacetyl* (butter flavor), sodium hypochlorite (curd washing) and hydrogen peroxide as a preservative.

Why processed foods are so deadly:

They use up enormous amounts of energy to digest them – giving your body nothing it needs and in return turning into nothing but waste; leaving you toxic and loaded with acid (making you a breeding ground for disease of all kinds). 

They contain no water to move nutrients through your body or to carry away wastes from the body – making you even more toxic and full of even more acid. 

The body's hungry feeling is caused by a need for nutrients.  Since processed foods have no measurable nutrients, even though your stomach may be full, your bodybelieves it still needs more food because it hasn't received any nutrients – the reasons you can polish off an entire family-size bag of Fritos then feel hungry again an hour later.  It's also why you aren't able to see your toes any longer. 

They're loaded with chemicals (dyes, preservatives, coloring agents, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, texture enhancers, tongue manipulators) – all things the human body was not designed to handle.  While some of these have been so-called "safe" by the FDA, there has been NO testing on the long-term effects of ingesting these chemicals – SO, if a fair amount of what you eat comes in a bag, box or can, you are a walking guinea pig.     

Tastefully Seductive 

The chemicals in excitotoxins stimulate taste cells in the tongue – causing the flavor of foods we consume to be greatly enhanced. Manufacturers often pack foods with “flavor enhancers” in an effort to make them taste irresistible. The most concentration of chemicals is in soups, snacks, sauces, gravies, salad dressings and many low-fat and vegetarian processed foods.

Although excitotoxin poisoning has received its recent publicity under the rather misleading title, “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” the fact is, American processed foods – from McDonald’s to Weight Watchers to Campbell’s soup – are just as likely to contain excitotoxins like mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame (NutraSweet® or Equal®). And according to many experts, these same foods are just as often to blame for the headaches, water retention, weight gain, skin problems and other health complaints that many consumers experience.

As a general rule, the more a food is processed, the more likely it is to contain MSG. Foods that commonly use MSG include potato chips, flavored crackers, canned soups, dry soup mixes, canned meats, diet foods, soy sauces, salad dressings, cured meats and poultry injected with broth. But reading the labels won’t always help you.

LEGAL Truth Twisting

When a food product uses 99% pure MSG it is called “monosodium glutamate” by the FDA and must be labeled as such. However, when a food product contains less than 99% pure MSG, the FDA doesn’t require it be identified. So it often appears on labels in various disguised forms, such as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” “spices” and “natural flavoring.” The following is a quick list of potentially suspect ingredients to watch for (when in doubt, avoid it or call the manufacturer to inquire – be specific).

* Ingredients that may contain 30 to 60 percent MSG: hydrolyzed vegetable protein; hydrolyzed protein; hydrolyzed plant protein; plant protein extract; sodium caseinate; calcium caseinate; yeast extract; textured protein; autolyzed yeast; hydrolyzed oat flour; Accent.

* Ingredients that may contain 12 to 40 percent MSG: malt extract; malt flavoring; bouillon; broth; stock; natural flavoring; natural beef or chicken flavoring; seasoning; spices.

* Ingredients that may contain some MSG: carrageenan; enzymes; soy protein concentrate; soy protein isolate; whey protein concentrate; some soymilk.

Small amounts of MSG are found naturally in many common foods such as seaweed, mushrooms, whole grains, carrots, meat, nuts and cheese. In its natural state, however, MSG is slowly assimilated by the human body and broken down so that the levels of concentration are kept low. The MSG in processed foods, on the other hand, is highly concentrated. And when people eat these foods, says Blaylock, they unwittingly bombard their brain cells with excitotoxins in large enough quantities enough to cause real trouble.

Common Allergic Responses from Excitotoxins (MSG & Aspartame) (even in VERY SMALL amounts):

–        Numbness/tingling on the tongue, face and/or lips

–        Burning/numbness sensation in the neck, radiating to arms and back

–        Facial pressure or tightness/jaw tightness or pain

–        Acute headache/migraine as if brain is swelling (It is!)


–        Fatigue

–        Asthmatic symptoms/wheezing

–        Red, hot welts, especially on the face, neck and upper chest

–        Chest pain/pressure

        Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting

–        Rise in blood pressure

–        Lightheadedness (loss of balance)

–        Anaphylactic reaction (throat swells)

–        Rapid or irregular heartbeat (racing)

–        Slow/slurred speech

–        Blurred vision/light sensitivity/difficulty in focusing

–        Difficulty concentrating (brain fog), poor memory

        Pain in joints and/or bones and connective tissue

        Swelling, pain or numbness of arms, hands, feet, jaw

 What are they thinking?

Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars developing glutamate blockers to fight neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, the agencies that are supposed to protect us allow glutamates to be poured (often hidden) as processed glutamate (MSG) into our food…total insanity!

Protect yourself and your loved ones by eating food that you cook from fresh or fresh-frozen. Remember, these eye and cognitive disorders are now in epidemic proportions, especially in those of us born after WWII; that’s when processed foods and chemical sweeteners emerged as a new way to market Chemical Cuisine.


FDA backgrounder #BG-9516 (available at and In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome, by George R. Schwartz, MD.

Matthew Solan, Experience Life

G. Gilbère, Chemical Cuisine: Do you Really know what you’re eating? IWR Press, 2011 additives

Tien Y. Wong, MBBS, PhD, director of the Singapore Eye Research Institute, National University of Singapore; Correlation and magnitude of the effect as seen in the Western and Asian population.

Aging Baby Boomers Devoting Nutrition and Money to Maintain Eye Health article by Winston Boyd PhD and David Feder, RD

Dr. Gloria Gilbère
“If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it – it’s probably NOT food, it’s Chemical Cuisine.” 
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of the author(s). Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of the authors. You are encouraged to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.