International Health News

MSG implicated in fibromyalgia

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA. Fibromyalgia is the third most commonly diagnosed rheumatologic disorder (after osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis). It affects mostly women with an average age of onset of between 29 and 37 years and diagnosis most often made between the ages of 34 and 53 years. It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects between 3 and 6 million people in the USA alone. The disorder is characterized by fatigue, morning stiffness, sleep disturbances, and widespread pain and tenderness.

Pharmacists at the University of Florida believe that monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame (NutraSweet) are the underlying causes of fibromyalgia in a subset of patients. They describe 4 cases where patients completely eliminated their fibromyalgia and accompanying disorders by adhering to a diet free of MSG and aspartame. The symptoms reappeared when MSG was reintroduced into the diet and disappeared again when eliminated. The 4 patients were all women who had suffered from fibromyalgia for anywhere from 2 to 17 years. They all suffered from numerous other conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), TMJ, GERD, anxiety, depression, and headaches. All of these symptoms disappeared within a couple of months after MSG and aspartame were eliminated from the diet. One patient was able to reduce her number of medications from 15 to 1.

MSG is, unfortunately, an extremely common ingredient in most processed foods. It is also known under the aliases of gelatin, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, textured protein, and yeast extracts. Eliminating it and aspartame from the diet requires constant vigilance.

The researchers point out that MSG was classified as safe by the FDA in 1959. Because of its long history of "safe" usage it was approved automatically before new stringent test requirements for food additives went into effect in 1958. The researchers question the safety of MSG and suggest that much of the research performed to prove its safety for human consumption may have been flawed. Both MSG and aspartame are now known to be potent neurotoxins (excitatory amino acids) and can affect the body through their action on central NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartame) receptors and through the inappropriate release of pituitary hormones into the general circulation. The Florida pharmacists urge large scale clinical trials to further explore the connection between fibromyalgia and MSG and aspartame, but do point out that not all fibromyalgia patients may be sensitive to the two food additives.
Smith, JD, et al. Relief of fibromyalgia symptoms following discontinuation of dietary excitotoxins. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, Vol. 35, June 2001, pp. 702-06

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