Monosodium Glutamate and Autism

The Erb Theory


Presented to the 13th Annual

Defeat Autism Now Conference

Washington D.C.

April 16th 2004

By John Edward Erb


The number of cases of Autism in the world has reached epidemic proportions. According to recent data, Autistic births number one in 156. This rate is now higher than any other birth defect.


When considering gender, however, the number is worse.

Autism strikes boys more than girls, so the chance of having a boy with Autism may be one in a hundred.


Before 1950, there were only a handful of cases worldwide, but the occurrence of Autism is ballooning 500% each decade. At this rate of growth, by 2014, it is possible that one out of every five boys born could suffer from Autism.


Having worked as a counselor and case manager specializing in the care of Autistic individuals for over fifteen years, I have an understanding of the difficulties that Autism places on both the child, and the family as a whole. In 2002, concerned for our children's health, my wife and I started researching food additives. What we discovered was so shocking that it inspired us to write a book on the subject called The Slow Poisoning of America. In this book I examined the connection between Autism and MSG in the diet of pregnant mothers.


MSG? Isn't that only in Chinese food?


During the seventies there was an uproar about MSG, with complaints that it caused all kinds of symptoms, from headaches to nausea. During this decade a lobby group appeared called 'The Glutamate Association.' This organization was created to manipulate the politician's and people's views on the safety of MSG. The membership of this association is limited to manufacturers and food processors that make and use MSG, the opinions they present serve only their own interests The Glutamate Association could not push off a FDA investigation forever. In 1992, the FDA called upon a 350 page review on the safety of the chemical. The review itself supported people's fears about the safety of Monosodium Glutamate:


'' an undetermined percentage of the population may react to MSG and develop MSG symptom complex, a condition characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:


·        burning sensation in the back of the neck forearms and chest

·        numbness in the back of the neck, radiating to the arms and back  

·        tingling, warmth and weakness in the face, temples, upper back, neck and arms

·        facial pressure or tightness

·        chest pain  

·        headache  

·        nausea  

·        rapid heartbeat

·        bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) in MSG intolerant people with asthma   drowsiness  

·        weakness


In otherwise healthy MSG-intolerant people, the MSG symptom complex tends to occur within one hour after eating 3 grams or more of MSG on an empty stomach or without other food. A typical serving of Glutamate treated food contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG. A reaction is most likely if the MSG is eaten in a large quantity or in a liquid, such as a clear soup.''


                                                          Federation of American Societies

                                                          for Experimental Biology

                                                          Presented to the FDA, 1992


 The FDA chose to ignore the report completely. They did not ask for further testing to find out what the 'unknown percentage' of the population was that was reacting to MSG. Instead, they allowed MSG to keep its 'GRAS' status. 'GRAS' is a term that means Generally Regarded As Safe. If a chemical falls into this category, the government grants its use in UNLIMITED amounts in food. At this moment, food companies could legally put 3 ounces of MSG into a 5 ounce hamburger. This fact is alarming considering that one tablespoon of MSG could kill a dog.


Even more alarming is the fact that MSG has been used in hundreds of experiments on thousands of laboratory animals over the last thirty years. Scientists use MSG to replicate brain damage from stroke. They inject MSG (scientific name Monosodium-L-Glutamate) into an area of the subject's brains, and within moments, the neurons become overexcited and die. They also inject it into rats to make them obese and cause a condition of pre-diabetes.


The amount of MSG needed to create these effects is measured in milligrams. Less than the amount we consume in one handful of Doritos.

Scientists classify chemicals that can destroy brain neurons as 'Excitotoxins.' MSG is one of the most exoitotoxic chemicals that can be found in the body. The brain is tilled with neurons that are specifically coded to receive glutamate. Excessive amounts of glutamates over- stimulate these neurons until they die.


The FDA has argued for the last decade that the brain is safe from excess Glutamate due to the Blood Brain Barrier. This barrier is the membrane that regulates the flow of chemicals into the brain. The list of symptoms given to the FDA from the FASEB report reveals a breach in this barrier.


The FDA argues that the placenta keeps MSG from handing the developing fetus. This claim is false.


The fetus begins forming days before the placental barrier is fully in place. Any chemicals in the mother's blood flow directly to the developing baby.

A study titled Neurotoxicity of monosodium-L-glutamate in pregnant and fetal rat found that the MSG in a pregnant mother's diet caused neuronal cell death and brain damage in the fetuses. They summed up their findings by saying:


"These observations raise the possibility of transplacental poisoning in human fetuses after the consumption of glutamate-rich food by the mother.''


                                                Toth L, Karcsu S. Feledi J, Kreutzberg GW

                                                            Dept. of Anatomy, UMS, Szeged, Hungary


This study was published l987.


1987! Almost Twenty years ago!


When one study is done by a pharmaceutical company that finds their wonder drug has a small chance of helping a small percentage of the population, we see it all over the media from Newspapers to CNN. But a study that proves that an additive placed in our food in unlimited amounts causes fetal brain death is not even newsworthy!


Considering the 1992 report to the FDA completely ignored this study and many others like it, what else has the Glutamate Association kept from the public? In our book The Slow Poisoning of America, my wife Michelle and I outline over a hundred other published medical studies kept from general knowledge for the last thirty years; studies proving that MSG can cause headaches, obesity, diabetes and many other health concerns.


If MSG is destructive to the brain, why is it added to almost every soup, snack food, frozen prepared meal, and restaurant item in the country? Is Monosodium Glutamate a valuable preservative or vitamin? It is neither. MSG is an amino acid which is harvested from the excrement of yeast cells in giant vats and added to food for one main purpose:



MSG is an addictive substance.


"Studies have found that adding MSG to certain foods such as soup and mashed potatoes has been successful in increasing the food intake."


                                                                   The Glutamate Association


MSG is Nicotine for Food


MSG added to food makes you crave more of that food.

Studies show that when people are offered the choice between similar foods, they will like the one with MSG better than the one without. This food addiction leads to an increase in sales for the companies that use MSG.


For the financial gain from selling more of their product, food companies risk the health of you, your children, and even your unborn babies. Their profit is more important than our health.


In 1944, the Japanese surrendered to the Americans, and all their scientific secrets went with them. Among these secrets was a new food additive, tested on the rations of the Japanese Soldiers. Its name was MSG and it made even the blandest and low quality food taste good. At a conference in Chicago in 1948, MSG and its amazing powers were unveiled to a choice few food companies. Oscar Mayer, General Foods, Kraft and many others were among the attendants. They were some of the few food companies wealthy enough to buy and use this addictive new secret ingredient.


The results were amazing, consumers developed brand loyalty to products made with ingredients of the poorest quality. MSG made even industrial foods taste good.


Restaurants that used MSG in their seasonings showed tremendous return on their investment. Kentucky Fried Chicken had phenomenal growth, bragging about their herbs and spices. If you check their ingredients list today, you will find MSG in almost every menu item. and barely a sign of herbs or spices! As production of MSG became cheaper even smaller food companies and restaurants could add it to their products.


Soon meals made at home in hours could be replicated in minutes in fast food restaurants or factories with second rate ingredients.


In the 1970's when consumers were demanding food   without MSG, the food manufacturers hid the glutamate under new ingredient names. Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Yeast Extract, aid Natural Flavorings are only a few of the dozen new aliases for MSG.


Today cafeterias in retirement homes, hospitals and even schools pour thousands of tons of MSG into their foods, despite the hundreds of articles showing its toxic effects.


Is it any wonder that the number of victims of Autism, and countless other disorders from Diabetes to ADHD to Alzheimer's are growing at record speed?


MSG'S Affect on the Unborn


MSG is an Excitotoxin, stimulating neurons until they die.

So if they can stimulate them to death, how do they affect brain cells just forming? Little medical research has been done in this field which is surprising considering the recommendations of the 1987 study.


During the writing of our book I found countless studies that show the variety of ways that MSG can affect the human body. From my research I developed the following hypothesis and presented it in the book The Slow Poisoning of America.


The Erb Theory: ''MSG introduced during the first month of fetal development causes Autism, as well as Asperger Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. ''









The genetic make-up of the mother may determine how susceptible the child is to glutamate poisoning in Utero.


ADHD as well as Asperger Syndrome share a similar frequency of striking boys vs. girls. It is possible that the amount of damage that glutamates do to the fetus occurs on a sliding scale determined by the amount of MSG ingested and the genetic sensitivity of the fetus.


Perhaps if the fetus is only slightly affected by the MSG, the child would be born with ADHD. More MSG/higher genetic sensitivity could manifest in the child as Asperger Syndrome, while the greatest exposure/highest sensitivity could result in Autism in its various degrees.


This is as yet an unproven theory. But there are over a hundred published studies which have proven that MSG can cause obesity in 100% of test subjects. If it can harm these subjects with a simple under the skin injection into day old infants, what can MSG do to an unborn child whose brain is just developing?


Suggestion for a Treatment Plan


From the research I have reviewed, I believe that the hyperactivity and OCD behaviors of children suffering from Autism, Asperger Syndrome. and ADHD can be linked to abnormally high levels of Dopamine in the Central Nervous Syndrome. In the book The Slow Poisoning of America we present evidence supporting the use of Melatonin as a natural counterpoint to Dopamine.




Personally I have had great success in using Melatonin (created naturally in the Pineal Gland) to reduce the ADHD behaviors that myself and two of my children have been diagnosed with. Many parents I have been in contact with have started giving Melatonin (available over-the counter from a variety of suppliers for a small price) to their children with Autism. In conjunction with removing all sources of MSG from their child's diet, these parents have reported that Melatonin has given their children


These findings have not been studied in a controlled experimental situation, but for the parents who are currently using it, Melatonin is making a considerable difference.




In Conclusion


The children of this nation suffer from Autism today not due to the fault of themselves or their parents, but due to a food industry driven by corporate greed, watched over by government agencies too asleep at the wheel to care.

This paper is presented to the victims, their parents, and the practitioners, who care enough to make a difference. The name of this Conference is Defeat Autism Now. Perhaps in its 13th year, this name can ring true.


Since developing this theory in May of 2003, I have yet to meet a health professional who has definitive proof that my theory is unfounded. Perhaps this theory will fill in the missing piece of the puzzle that so many here are looking for.


If I am correct, and MSG introduced to the developing fetus is the cause of Autism, then we could end this epidemic now, simply by demanding the removal of this toxic substance from the food supply, with no new cases of Autistic births. The funding available can be directed towards the thousands of cases of Autism we have now, instead of the millions more we will see in the years to come.

Once the cause of an ailment is determined, the cure for it is easier to discover.


John Erb


The Slow Poisoning of America