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Excitotoxins - Some Key Information!

What Are They - How Do They Work?

This is a summary compilation of information about the recent topic - Excitotoxins - and is intended to focus on basic ideas available on the subject, from a number of sources. It is a starting point for further investigation for those who wish to delve deeper into the subject.

Excitotoxins, recently came to national attention due to a number of sources, scientific as well as media related, through studies, news / magazine / TV and books. Among these:

Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Russell Blaylock, MD is one of the more prominent attention builders for this subject. There are many trains of thought regarding the validity of 'Excitotoxins', their actions and the affects they have. The conclusions drawn below are general and would seem to be held as basic by the many sources polled for the information.

Summary of basic findings:

  • Excitotoxins are variants of common proteins found in most living things. These appear to be focused on variants of the amino acids, glutamine, glutamic acid and aspartic acid. Compounds, which are found in significant concentrations in the human body - the brain and nervous system - and are basic to their proper function.

  • The focus of excitotoxins, as dangerous and damaging, is on products that concentrate these amino acids and their 'salt' variants - Aspartame, the artificial sweetener used by itself and in numerous other food products - MSG, monosodium glutamate, a salt variant of glutamic acid used to enhance flavor, etc.

  • The level of concentration and/or frequency of dosage/usage of these compounds would seem to be very important in determining if they would have a deleterious effect. It is obvious that completely eliminating glutamine, glutamic acid, aspartic acid (amino acids) is not possible and not even advisable. But the excessive ingestion of high concentrations of the artificially produced variants may be dangerous and seriously damaging to human health and well being. A simplistic example of the effect of concentration can be illustrated by the importance of oxygen to all living things. In the concentrations available in a clean atmosphere and the normal cellular environment, the vast majority of living organisms rely on oxygen for cell biology. But in high concentrations oxygen ceases to be beneficial and actually can cause cell damage and eventual death. This example of "beneficial to dangerous" is played out in hundreds of other areas with hundreds of other compounds and seems to hold true with amino acids and 'excitotoxins' as well.

  • Processed foods may provide a high risk of ingesting concentrations that are dangerous. Although there seems no reason to assume that any one process is more dangerous than others. Vegetable hydrolysis, in and of itself, doesn't assume that excitotoxins are present in dangerous concentrations as opposed to what might be available as in 'normal' concentrations found in many foods.

  • Foods that commonly contain glutamine, glutamic acid and MSG are: Parmesan cheese - 1.2%, tomato sauce - .3% Cow's Milk .5%, many processed cheeses .4% - .5%, human milk - .3%, even Bragg liquid aminos have .5% (straight out of the bottle), many soy and other vegetable products - .3% to over 1% and more. Some level of these compounds in your daily food would seem to be unavoidable and probably important to proper nutrition - although that level doesn't seem to be defined by any independent (impartial, non-food industry, non-governmental) body. People are different - in any population there will be those who have high tolerances to these compounds and those who are very susceptible to even low concentrations of such.

  • It seems clear that, based on the significant danger these compounds may present, much more research must be done to clarify where the dangers lie and the possible adverse affects on us.

  • We, as individuals must use this information, as it becomes available, to make decisions that benefit our health. We must also work towards bringing attention to the general populace of those things/products that are a clear danger to our health. We must continue to support investigation into this and other health issues that 'industry' wishes to cloud or sweep under the rug.

Find below text excerpts from some of sites that were surveyed to draw the summary above. Clearly, not all of the information is presented by sources that have clear scientific backing, but they do illustrate the large variety of information on this subject. We suggest further reading and discerning thought for those of you who also feel the urgency of this topic.

Excerpt from Health World Online

Glutamic acid (glutamate) is simply converted to glutamine and is synthesized from arginine, ornithine, and proline. It is abundant in both animal and vegetable proteins and is found in high concentrations in the human brain. Glutamic acid, which is important to brain function, is the only amino acid metabolized in the brain. The conversion of glutamic acid to glutamine helps clear potentially toxic ammonia. Glutamic acid, with the help of vitamin B6 and manganese, is also a precursor of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an important neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Glutamic acid helps transport potassium into the spinal fluid and is itself an excitatory neurotransmitter. (GABA, however, is inhibitory.) Glutamic acid thus has been used in the treatment of fatigue, parkinsonism, schizophrenia, mental retardation, muscular dystrophy, and alcoholism. Supplemented as L-glutamine, it penetrates the blood-brain barrier and can be used as a brain fuel. Research has shown that L-glutamine, in a dose of 500 mg. four times daily, decreases the craving for alcohol. This amino acid is now commonly used in alcoholism clinics. L-glutamine also seems to reduce the craving for sugar and carbohydrates and so may be helpful for some people in dealing with obesity or sugar abuse. It may also help in the healing of ulcers.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a single sodium salt of glutamic acid. This seaweed extract, now commonly produced chemically, may suggest the possible toxicity of glutamic acid as slightly neurologically irritating in high dosages. Some people seem to be particularly sensitive to glutamine and MSG. Otherwise, glutamine is relatively safe and is the best way to supplement this amino acid.

GABA itself has been used in the treatment of epilepsy, high blood pressure, and anxiety, as it helps in relaxation. GABA may also enhance the sex drive and reduce nighttime urination.

Staying Healthy With Nutrition © Elson M. Haas, M.D.

Glutamic Acid
Excerpt from Health Encyclopedia

What does it do?
Glutamic acid is a nonessential amino acid that the body uses to build proteins. Although glutamine and glutamic acid have similar names, they are structurally different. The fluid produced by the prostate gland contains significant amounts of glutamic acid, and this amino acid may play a role in the normal function of the prostate. In one study, symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia were improved in a group of forty-five men taking 780 mg of glutamic acid per day for two weeks and then 390 mg for the next two and a half months in combination with equal amounts of the amino acids alanine and glycine.

Where is it found?
As with the other amino acids, excellent sources of glutamic acid include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Some protein-rich plant foods also supply glutamic acid.

In what conditions might glutamic acid be supportive?
Benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Who is likely to be deficient?
Most food sources of protein supply glutamic acid, so only an individual deficient in protein would become deficient in glutamic acid.

How much should I take?
There is no reason for healthy people to take glutamic acid as a supplement. But, for those who do use this amino acid, appropriate amounts should be determined with the consultation of a nutritionally-oriented physician.

Are there any side effects or interactions?
Glutamic acid is remarkably free of side effects for the vast majority of people who take it, although individuals with kidney or liver disease should not consume high intakes of amino acids without consulting a health care professional.


  1. Damrau F. Benign prostatic hypertrophy: Amino acid therapy for symptomatic relief. J Am Geriatrics Soc 1962;10(5):42630.
  2. Zello GA, Wykes LF, Ball RO, et al. Recent advances in methods of assessing dietary amino acid requirements for adult humans. J Nutr 1995;125:290715.

Mechanism of Excitotoxin Effect on the Brain
Excerpt from Leading Edge Research
© 1996 Leading Edge Research

Processed human foods contain three primary brain cell toxins: glutamate, aspartate and cysteic acid. They are called excitotoxins because they excite neurons due to their chemical similarity to neurotransmitters. Natural variations of glutamate and aspartate are in fact found normally in the spinal chord, and are subject to a very delicate level within the body. Excess levels are immediately removed by counterbalancing mechanisms that transfer excess glutamate back into surrounding glial cells, which surround the neurons and supply them with energy. When the concentration rises above a critical level, they become neural toxins to cells containing receptors for them. Excessive glutamate levels will not only kill the neurons with the receptors for glutamate but will also kill any neurons that happen to be connected to it, even if that neuron uses another type of receptor. This fact is very important relative to the contribution glutamates and aspartates make toward development of both Alzheimer's syndrome and Parkinson's disease.

Experimental evidence has shown that within 15-30 minutes after being exposed to excessive levels of glutamate, such as that acquired by eating processed foods, neurons suspended in tissue culture swell up like balloons. The organelles begin to degenerate and the chromatin begins to clump. Within three hours these neurons are dead. However, when lower doses of MSG are used for two hours, and then removed, the cells remained viable for 18 to 24 hours, after which they suddenly died. Apparently, glutamate acts as a trigger that opens the sodium channel on the cell membrane and allows calcium to enter the neuron, triggering an enzyme called phospholipase C within the cell, which then triggers the release of arachidonic acid, damaging the cells interior. The arachidonic acid is attacked by two enzymes called lipoygenase and cyclo-oxygenase, further triggering an explosive release of free radicals (superoxide and hydroxyl radicals) which brings on cell death. The normal concentration of antioxidants in the brain is not enough to handle the excess free radicals produced in this way.

Since humans concentrate ingested glutamate in their plasma in higher concentrations than any other animal, this fact must figure into the equation as to why glutamates have been increasingly added to human processed food, despite scientific evidence presented to Congress, in order to achieve the desired neurological degeneration in line with both Malthusian population reduction mandates, allopathic fund generation and neurological behavior modification programs.

There are numerous resources for further investigation and information. Please take the time to investigate further - for your own health.




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