Glutamate or monosodium glutamate is contained as a flavor enhancer in numerous ready meals, chips and sausage products. It occurs naturally in parmesan cheese, eggs, soy sauce and even breast milk. Glutamate is found in the human body in the bones, as a free substance and in the brain. It is produced by the nerve cells and acts as an important messenger substance in the transmission of stimuli in the nervous system. An overdose (e.g. from ready meals) acts like a poison on the nerve cells of the brain.

Overdose of glutamate makes you fat and stupid

It is hardly possible for people to consume glutamate in large quantities with natural foods because the intense taste of parmesan, for example, causes a feeling of nausea. Foods containing glutamate (e.g. ready meals) pose a danger to humans because, compared to natural sources of glutamate, they contain significantly higher amounts of the substance and can be absorbed by the body.

Glutamate acts as a messenger substance in the brain. An overdose can cause misinformation in the hypothalamus, the center in the brain responsible for hunger, body growth and weight control.

Research by glutamate critic Professor Hermanussen showed that glutamate supplementation could lead to glutamate and obesity. Experimental animals ate twice as much when the substance was added (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006).

Nutrition researcher France Bellisle (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Paris) found that glutamate gives the brain incorrect information about food supply. Subjects who had it in their food ate more than necessary, chewed less and tended to “gulp down” their food.

Researcher John Onley discovered in animal experiments that the flavor enhancer can destroy brain cells. Brain damage to the embryos caused by glutamate intake was also obvious in pregnant animals. If the glutamate balance is out of balance, more severe neuronal damage can occur in the long term. Critics even suspect that regular consumption of glutamate in industrial foods can lead to multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Glutamate is officially considered harmless. Glutamate advocates, who are paid by the food industry to provide independent assessments, find one pound a day to be safe for an adult.

Chinese restaurant syndrome and glutamate sensitivity

In the 1960s, the doctor Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok explains how a cluster of symptoms always appeared as a result of a visit to a Chinese restaurant 20 minutes after a meal. Numbness in the neck, hot flashes, nausea and headaches were also described by other fellow sufferers after eating the Chinese food following a publication by Kwok. The set of symptoms was later called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" and was attributed to glutamate because it is often used as a flavor enhancer in Chinese restaurants. A study showed that flavor enhancers can cause headaches, numbness, tingling and flushing, especially in sensitive people (Journal of Allergy and Clincal Immunology, 1997).

Glutamate under the guise of yeast extract

It is not always clear what the additives on food labels mean. Glutamate can usually be identified under monosodium glutamate (MSG), glutamic acid, sodium glutamate, potassium glutamate, calcium glutamate and magnesium glutamate (E 620-25). Manufacturers often disguise it under the guise of yeast extract, for example in stock cubes. Yeast extract has the same effect as glutamate but is not considered a flavor enhancer because it naturally contains glutamate. It is important to read the labels carefully, as companies that use yeast extract advertise with the label “no flavor enhancers”.

The article was largely taken from Hans-Ulrich Grimm's “The Nutrition Lie”.


Hans-Ulrich Grimm: The nutritional lie. How the food industry is driving us crazy. Munich 2011.

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