Flavor Enhancer Glutamate

The flavor enhancer glutamate is now not only used in countless convenience foods and seasonings. It is also popular in restaurants and canteen kitchens. Consumers love the hearty, spicy taste and, on the other hand, hardly like naturally flavored dishes – which brings us to the first effect of the flavor enhancer. Food flavored with glutamate tastes so good to many people that they can’t stop eating – an important reason for obesity, which is so common today.

Flavor enhancers are chemical substances

Industrially added flavor enhancers are not spices, but chemical substances that simulate an artificial feeling of hunger in the brain, independently of the aroma of food, in order to enable the sale of products that theoretically taste inedible.

Since the various common glutamates (sodium glutamate, potassium glutamate, calcium glutamate, and glutamic acid) are almost identical in their mode of action, we will talk about “the” glutamate in the following.

From a neurological point of view, glutamate is a drug. It is an addictive amino acid compound that enters the blood via the mucous membranes and from there goes directly to our brain, because the rather small molecules of glutamate easily overcome our protective blood-brain barrier.

Glutamate is an addictive drug

In contrast to the more well-known drugs, glutamate does not primarily make you “high”, but it artificially creates an appetite by, among other things, disturbing the function of our brain stem. In addition to the elementary bodily functions, the brain stem (limbic system) regulates our emotional perception and therefore also our hunger.

Due to the disturbances, glutamate causes sweating and stress effects such as stomach pain, high blood pressure, and palpitations. It often leads to migraines in more sensitive people.

Sensory perception is significantly restricted and the ability to learn and the general ability to concentrate decrease for up to several hours after taking glutamate. In allergy sufferers, glutamate can cause epileptic seizures or even immediate death from respiratory paralysis.

Severe brain damage found in animal experiments

In animal experiments, the flavor enhancer glutamate caused severe brain damage; it was administered to pregnant rats via the diet in doses such as those given e.g. B. in potato chips or ready-made soups are quite common, the embryo in the womb could not longer develop a fully functional nervous system.

The newborns would probably not have survived in nature.

Clear brain changes also occurred in adult animals. Even the most severe brain damage after a stroke does not result from the fact that the lack of oxygen destroys a large number of brain cells; the few cells that are really destroyed in this way release large amounts of glutamate, which causes the actual main destruction.

Hands up – and no one talks about it?

The food industry puts up with this and has probably made sure, with generous donations of money, that the few newspaper advertisements against glutamate could not cause a scandal.

Billions depend on the use of such “flavor enhancers”; If, for example, the taste of cream of asparagus soup in a bag was suddenly noticeable, the majority of people would probably find its aroma, which tastes of salty flour paste, inedible.

Glutamate in food damages the retina

Under certain circumstances, people’s eating habits can trigger a special form of glaucoma.

If you eat a lot of food with the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate over a long period of time, you risk your eyesight. Scientists working with Prof. Dr. Hiroshi Ohguro of Hirosaki University, Japan, according to a recent report in the journal New Scientist.

The researchers were then able to show in experiments with rats that animals fed food with a high glutamate content for six months developed significantly thinner retinas and gradually even lost their eyesight.

Flavor enhancers accumulate

Research leader Ohguro confirmed that very high amounts of glutamate were sometimes used in the study, but did not want to give an exact lower limit for the substance to be completely harmless. With lower doses in the diet, the effect could possibly only become apparent after a few decades.

Ohguro believes the new research may also help explain why East Asia — where monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a common ingredient in many foods — is so common in a specific form of glaucoma without the usual elevated intraocular pressure.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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