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A Book Review: Excitotoxins, the Taste that Kills.

Updated on June 19, 2014

Have you heard of Dr. Russell L. Blaylock? He is a retired neurosurgeon and author. He was an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi in 1994 when he had his book published. His book is titled Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills.

In the introduction to his book he asks, “What if someone were to tell you that a chemical added to food could cause brain damage in your children, and that this chemical could affect how your children’s nervous systems formed during development so that in later years they may have learning or emotional difficulties? How would you feel?....Suppose evidence was presented to you that the artificial sweetener in your diet soft drink may cause brain tumors to develop?....What if it could be demonstrated that all of these types of chemicals (called excitotoxins) could possibly aggravate or even precipitate many of the neurodegenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease?” He goes on to say that “you may be upset to learn that many of these brain lesions in your children are irreversible and can follow a single exposure of sufficient concentration….and the food industry disguises many of these excitotoxin additives so that they will not be recognized. In fact, many foods that are labeled “No MSG” not only contain MSG but also contain other excitotoxins of equal potency.”

Monosodium glutamate or MSG is the chemical in “sea tangle” or kombu that Japanese cooks have been using – apparently— for at least a millennium. When chemists isolated this ingredient and studied it for its taste enhancing abilities, it became a hot property. A related substance called hydrolyzed vegetable protein also contains MSG and also became part of a worldwide million-dollar industry after World War II when giants in the food industry -- such as Pillsbury, Oscar Mayer, Libby’s and Campbells – added millions of pounds of MSG to foods every year. A corporation called Ajinomoto Company today produces most of the taste-enhancing substances for the world’s people.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Neurotransmitters Play a Role

In the 1940’s and 1950’s neuroscientists assumed that the glutamate supplied the brain with energy and did no harm. Then in 1957, two ophthalmologists, Lucas and Newhouse, decided to test MSG on baby mice to study an eye disease called hereditary retinal dystrophy. To their amazement, they discovered that the MSG which had been fed to the infant mice caused the destruction of all the nerve cells in the layers of the animals’ retinas. Ten years later, Dr. John Olney, a neuroscientist with the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis repeated the experiment with infant mice and found that cells in the hypothalamus of the animals’ brains were destroyed – after a single dose of MSG.

Millions of babies all over the world were being poisoned with MSG because large amounts of MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein had been added to baby foods for years by that time. Dr. Olney took the information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and expected some kind of help to stop these dangerous compounds from being put in foods. The FDA did not take any action.

Dr. Olney testified before a Congressional committee. At that point, the manufacturers of baby foods agreed to remove the MSG from the products. Instead, they added a substance called hydrolyzed vegetable protein which contains three excitotoxins and has MSG added within those toxins.


The Human Brain


In Dr. Blaylock’s book, he gives a good description of the parts and functions of our brains. The frontal lobes, the parietal lobes, the occipital lobe and the temporal lobes all have their functions including short term memory, integration of information and checking for memories, functions such as tension, tact and tenacity of endeavor and association of internal mapping so that we can take our whereabouts by visual cues.

The white matter in our brain has millions of nerve fibers or axons coming from and to the gray matter. The gray matter is arranged into nuclei which are blended together. They function with other nuclei, not independently. Neurotransmitters in the brain allow the neurons to communicate. It's my understanding that the excitotoxins cause the neurotransmitters to fire rapidly -- all excited -- so excitedly that cells die. Every day that we are eating processed food, drinking diet sodas, eating breads with L-cysteine -- the list goes on and on -- we are causing harm to our brains. Eventually the brain's defenses can no longer put up a strong enough defense. Little by little we can suffer physiological damage especially to our neurological system. How much damage? The evidence seems to indicate the answer to this question depends on our individual patterns of unhealthy eating and drinking, our individual genetic make-up and our age.

There is strong evidence that the excitotoxins play a key role in many degenerative brain diseases by causing a slow destruction of brain cells. This is carried out, Dr. Blaylock explains, due to the fact that neurons that “use glutamate for a transmitter are destroyed by these high concentrations of glutamate while other neurons that use other transmitters are spared.”

In 1994 when Dr. Blaylock's book was published there was no comprehensive evidence that the excitotoxins completely caused the degenerative brain diseases, but the evidence was strong that, at the least, they played a key role due to excitotoxin build-up in the brain. Research has shown that the endocrine system in our bodies are especially at the mercy of these poisons in our systems. The hormone that controls growth is critical in many ways and can be greatly disturbed by our partaking of excitotoxins.The thyroid gland, the adrenal glands and the gonads can become affected in their production and activities.

Junk Food photo is courtesy of
Junk Food photo is courtesy of

Hidden Sources of MSG

There are newer books on the market to read now on this subject if you are already aware of the basic information. However, Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills is an excellent place to start your journey of discovery if you have not read anything yet regarding the damage caused to our brains by Nutrasweet, asparatame, MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. The anatomical diagrams in the book are easy to understand yet upsetting because they can cause a light bulb to go on. We have been played. Our health, individually and collectively, does not matter at all to the FDA.

When and if you buy or borrow this book from the library, do look at the list at the back under the heading Appendix I: Hidden Sources of MSG. It explains on those pages that the glutamate manufacturers and the processed food industries are always trying to hide the facts from us. Aspartate and L-cysteine, for example, are often added to foods and for years did not even require labeling. Check the ingredients listed on the label of the bread you usually purchase. If it says L-Cysteine in the ingredients, you are wise to choose a different bread. L-cysteine is a poison to the brain.

Here is a list of additives as outlined in Dr. Blaylock’s book which always contain MSG and can be listed simply as the following names so that most people do not suspect the harm of digesting them.

Monosodium glutamate

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

Hydrolyzed Protein

Plant Protein Extract

Sodium Caseinate

Calcium Caseinate

Yeast Extract

Textured Protein

Autolyzed Yeast

Hydrolyzed Oat Flour

Additives that frequently contain MSG are listed as Malt extract, malt flavoring, bouillon, broth, stock, flavoring, natural flavoring, Natural Beef or chicken flavoring, seasoning, spices, Carrageenan (in icecream) enzymes, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate.

How many times have you looked at the ingredients on a package before buying it, checking to make sure it was safe for yourself, your children or your grandchildren and found it to say in the list – spices? Or maybe –natural flavoring? Good sounding stuff, so it goes into the shopping cart.

Protect your Brain Cells. Avoid MSG.

Since 1994, this is no longer just a million dollar industry. This is a billion dollar industry and is worldwide.

There is a mechanical system in the brain which scientists have named the blood-brain barrier. It is used to keep harmful compounds from entering the brain. It is believed to exist in the walls of the capillaries of the brain. When it becomes compromised, disease sets into the neurological system in the body. It is my hope that you, the reader, will study this subject of which I have only barely skimmed the surface. It is also my hope that while you are doing so -- and if you are, for instance, a Diet Coke drinker with no urge to quit the habit right now -- that you will make sure you are taking an Omega 3 in some form every day. In today's fast-food world the average person gets 20 times the amount of Omega 6 in relation to Omega 3. Our body needs it in a 1 to 1 ratio. When you buy Omega 3, make sure it says Pharmaceutical Grade on the bottle of capsules or it is not of any use – according to research done recently. It doesn’t matter which brand it is, but it needs to say Pharmaceutical Grade on the bottle. This will give some protection (Dr. Blaylock says) for the brain barrier system. It is not the solution to the vast problem, but as human beings we often take awhile to absorb new data and to make course corrections. I know I do.

As I mentioned, in this hub I have only skimmed the surface of this topic. I hope you will research this subject by reading the book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, written by Dr. Blaylock -- or any other number of excellent books on this subject.

(Source of information in this hub: Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills. Author: Russell L. Blaylock, M.D. Published 1994 by Health Press, Sante Fe, New Mexico.)

Monosodium Glutamate from ocean to our plates via big bags


© 2010 Pamela Dapples


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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Letitialicious, not surprising at all -- I agree. Thank you for dropping by and reading. Your father's book sounds interesting. I will have a look at it online if it's out there.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      rajan jolly, thank you for your comments and your votes/share.

    • Letitialicious profile image


      6 years ago from Paris via San Diego

      My father (author of The Potbelly Syndrome) has been warning me off this stuff for a long time, but I didn't realize just how prevalent it was until I read your article. When you see that Monsanto & co spent $45 million (imagine how many people that would feed) to defeat California's proposal simply to label genetically modified foods and allow the consumer to choose, it's not surprising that MSG gets by with calling itself all that is does.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Pamela, a very useful and very well written hub exposing MSG and other excitotoxins which play havoc with our health. A fine list of things under the guise of which MSG is added to processed foods. I'm linking yhis hub to my hub on MSG.

      Voting this up, useful, awesome and shared.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      I am glad you found this hub interesting -- and all the way from Dubai! Thank you.

    • Capt Anjum Ansari profile image


      6 years ago from Allen, TX

      Hi, Pamela Kinnaird W,

      This is such a great & an eye-opener article! 3 cheers for you :)

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      I'm glad you bumped into this hub and found it useful, healthylife2..

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thank you for explaining the dangers of Excitotoxins. Your article gives me even more motivation to avoid processed food. It's scary that it can cause irreversible nerve damage. I'm definitely sharing this!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      I haven't heard of coconut aminos. The Primalist, I look it up one day soon, but it doesn't sound too harmful. MSG is very harmful.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What is your take on coconut aminos?

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Hally Z, thanks for mentioning Odwalla. I hadn't heard of it. Good to know.

    • Hally Z. profile image

      Hally Z. 

      7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Hello back Pamela! Thanks very much for your reply. Yes, I'm definitely on to the many costumes glutamate (and other neurotoxins) are dressed up as by food manufacturers. However, what bothers me most is that sometimes even the food at Whole Foods has "natural flavors" listed -like Naked juices. I've written Naked for an explanation but they would not disclose what those flavors were, so I switched my brand loyalty to Odwalla. On another note, I'd like to reference your hub on my own MSG hub. Thanks again!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Hally Z, that's great you're very careful about avoiding MSG and other toxic substances. Especially bad are those products that conceal the ingredients by calling the toxins 'spices' or 'natural flavorings' or 'vegetable broth' or two dozen other labels the FDA allows. I'm sure you've found the Appendix in Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills where all the terms are listed. Thanks for commenting.

    • Hally Z. profile image

      Hally Z. 

      7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Thank you for posting this great review of ExcitoToxins: The Taste that Kills. I have this book and am currently reading it. I am just mad that food manufacturers blatantly add MSG and other glutamate-containing substances to food with no regard for public health. I've given up on shopping anywhere within the center aisles of my local grocery store and only get fresh produce there. Otherwise, I go to natural health food stores for items like soups, cookies, pizzas, etc. Incidentally, the worst offenders are those diet foods like Slimfast....I checked out the ingredients on Slimfast's bars the other day and found at least two excitotoxins, plus loads of sugar and trans fat to boot. High fructose corn syrup looked completely innocent by comparison! Anyway, thank you also for the fan mail!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      It's especially difficult, I think, for our parents' generation to accept that there could be anything in processed foods and soft drinks that is placed there legally which could be poisoning us. Thank you, xstatic.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      7 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      I know this is one of your older Hubs, but the info is important enough to share. This stuff is scary and hard to avoid if you use any prepared foods at all.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      7 years ago from Peru, South America

      You are very knowledgeable on the subject. Thank you for sharing with us!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Vespawoolf, that is amazing that people buy MSG by the bagful. I do hope you will research this even more at the library and share with your friends. Dementia and its different types such as Alzheimers are definitely on the rise and have been for a long time. Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills and many other good books explain the history of MSG and the billion dollar industry that it is worldwide. The defenders (multi-global corporations) of excitotoxics claim the blood-brain barrier protects the brain from glutamates and asparates, but as the scientists detail in these books, that is only a short term basis. With the toxic barrage of these elements in today's processed foods, our brains and spinal cords are under attack -- and losing.

      Thank you for commenting.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      7 years ago from Peru, South America

      Thank you for such a thorough hub on this subject. I have always avoided artificial anything, but I had no idea these chemicals are often hidden in foods. The problem here in S. America is that home cooks buy big bags of MSG, which they call ajinomoto, and add it by the palmfuls to food. I educate those near me to the dangers, but it's such a widespread issue it's like barely scratching the surface. Now I have new info about how very dangerous MSG is for children, too!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      8 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      RTalloni, yes it is heartbreaking to see children drinking aspartame concoctions. I often see this in stores: a child holding a big cola drink walking along with a so-called caregiver, the parent.

      Thank you for taking the time to read this and for linking it to your Sun Crystals hub.

    • RTalloni profile image


      8 years ago from the short journey

      It really is sad to see so many children downing the poisons in their drinks--heartbreaking. We had a wonderful pediatrician when aspartame hit the market in the early 80s (maybe late 70s?) and he predicted that there would be a huge jump in childhood cancers, particularly brain cancers from the stuff, as well as other health problems.

      So glad to see this topic highlighted so well. If you have no objection I would like to link this hub to mine on Sun Crystals. Thanks!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      8 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Oceansnsunsets, Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry to hear that your dad is struggling with neurogenerative problems.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image


      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Pamela, this is an amazing and important hub. I learned so much from it. I have been a diet coke drinker for years, but it seems my body is not wanting the chemicals from it, and so I have slowed way down. I am going to make sure my Omegas have the "pharmaceutical grade" on the bottle. Currently, my father is struggling very much with neurogenerative disorders that will probably take his life. He is only 65. Thank you again for the amazing hub, this is super important!

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      9 years ago

      Great Hub Pamela - a must read - MSG is everywhere now it seems - used to be just Chinese food. I will link this to some health food hubs I am looking at doing after the 60DC. I Tweeted it for you - this is important info.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      9 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Bayoulady, thanks for reading.

    • bayoulady profile image


      9 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      Well done, and obviously well researched. Kudos!I have indeed looked at labels to make sure there was no msg.I had no idea it was hidden in names like natural flavoring,plant protein,etc. Thanks for the list. I am bookmarking this.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      9 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      drbj, sligobay and Mentalist Acer, thank you very much for taking the time to read this hub.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      9 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Troubling indeed;)

    • sligobay profile image


      9 years ago from east of the equator

      I had heard rumors but have never been provided with this reference before. It is hard to believe that the government of "We the People" would allow this "killing us softly" stuff to continue to happen. Where are the product liability lawyers when you 'really' need them?

      Great hub and thanks for caring about the rest of humanity! Three Cheers for you.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      9 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, Pamela, for emphasizing the dangers of eating foods containing MSG. I have read Blaylock's book and it is an eye-opener.

      Your excellent research and well-written hub should do much to educate those who are unaware of the dangers of these chemicals in the food we eat daily.

      I wrote a hub: "MSG and Fat Rats and Us," and would be happy to link to this one if you wish.


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