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Glutamate sources, health risks

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 by

Glutamate is a type of neurotransmitter that sends signals in the brain and nerves across the body. The neurotransmitter, which plays a vital role in brain development, is a non-essential amino acid. This means that the body is capable of producing the neurotransmitter. However, glutamate can also be found in great abundance in a variety of food sources including red meat and poultry products. The amino acid can be obtained from nuts and beans as well, according to an article posted on the San Francisco Chronicle website.

The amino acid’s processed form, called monosodium glutamate (MSG), is commonly used as a food additive and flavor enhancer in many American-style Chinese food, canned soups and vegetables, and processed meats. The scientific community has long established that excessive consumption of both glutamate and MSG may cause severe medical conditions.

Harmful effects that can be caused by glutamate

Consuming glutamate in very high amounts is known to be detrimental to brain health. An entry posted on the Everyday Health website notes that excessive glutamate intake may damage the brain and nerve cells in two ways. First, extremely high glutamate consumption may render the amino acid receptors on receiving nerve cells to be oversensitive, which means that fewer glutamate molecules are required to activate them. Second, high glutamate concentrations may overexcite the nerve cells, which in turn may lead to cell death. The article stresses prolonged nerve stimulation is harmful to the nerve cells and may cause excitotoxicity.

According to the article, too much glutamate in the brain may lead to a plethora of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsosn’s disease and stroke as well as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Likewise, excessive glutamate concentrations may lead to the onset of various mental and behavioral conditions including autism, schizophrenia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Very high glutamate levels may also induce traumatic brain injury and epilepsy, the article adds.

Excessive glutamate intake is associated with chronic pain as well. An article published on the Self Hacked website notes that glutamate receptors and glutamatergic synapses send out signals of pain and itch. High glutamate concentrations are linked to the onset of severe headaches or migraines. Many patients also appear to suffer from glutamate allergy, which further worsens their migraines.

Long-term exposure to high glutamate levels may also lead to the onset of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. According to the article, excessive glutamate consumption may exacerbate the damage of pancreatic cells, which facilitate insulin release. The amino acid is associated with cancer onset as well.

Body systems harmed by glutamate

Glutamate is notoriously detrimental to the brain and the central nervous system. Likewise, the amino acid is found to negatively affect pancreatic function and the digestive system’s overall health.

Where to learn more


Glutamate may cause excitotoxicity, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsosn’s disease and stroke.

Glutamate may trigger multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, autism and schizophrenia.

Glutamate may lead to depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, brain injury and epilepsy.

Glutamate may induce severe headache, chronic pain, cancer and both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Glutamate is detrimental to both the brain and the central nervous system.

Glutamate negatively affects pancreatic function and the digestive system’s overall health.


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