Join 3,425 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Why does artificial sweetener make my teeth numb?
July 19, 2006 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Why does artificial sweetener make my teeth numb?

This is totally weird. I've always noticed that foods/drinks with artificial sweetener in them tend to make my teeth feel numb, particularly the two top front ones.

Other people have eaten the same food and not had this reaction, so I'm curious as to whether it is just me. What prompted me to ask this here is that today I had this reaction from - would you believe it - salad dressing! Leaving to the side that I am truly shocked that my salad dressing contains sweetener, does anyone know what causes this?

I don't know if it's relevant, but I'm mildly lactose intolerant, and I understand a lot of sweeteners are listed as having lactose.
posted by Lucie to Food & Drink (49 answers total)
 
Artificial sweeteners ala NutraSweet (aspartame) and Splenda (sucralose) are known neurotoxins that mess with your brain and God knows what else. The studies are everywhere. Please stop taking the stuff.
posted by rinkjustice at 8:45 PM on July 19, 2006


Are you serious, rinkjustice? Is this true of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:49 PM on July 19, 2006


Absolutely.
posted by rinkjustice at 8:57 PM on July 19, 2006


I think the claim that artificial sweeteners are neurotoxins needs to be backed up with evidence a little more compelling and credible than that, rinkjustice.
posted by Doug at 9:03 PM on July 19, 2006


The studies are everywhere.
Um, no. Sucralose has been accepted by several national and international food safety regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives, The European Union's Scientific Committee on Food, Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada and Food Standards Australia-New Zealand (FSANZ).The acceptable daily intake for sucralose is 5 mg / kg of body weight per day.

"In determining the safety of sucralose, FDA reviewed data from more than 110 studies in humans and animals. Many of the studies were designed to identify possible toxic effects including carcinogenic, reproductive and neurological effects. No such effects were found, and FDA's approval is based on the finding that sucralose is safe for human consumption." (FDA Talk Paper T98-16)


Sorry for the derail. Let's not talk crazy, and try to help the OP with their question, mmmkay?
posted by exlotuseater at 9:07 PM on July 19, 2006


Aspartame is a favorite of the tinfoil hat crowd, who blame it for everything from migraines to multiple sclerosis. It's a bit like thimerosol in vaccines; you're probably better off without it, but it isn't responsible for every malady that befalls you.

As to how artificial sweeteners cause tooth numbness... I have no idea. That's a new one to me. Are you sure that's the common element?
posted by Justinian at 9:12 PM on July 19, 2006


Well, I very, very rarely have artificial sweetener, and have only had this symptom when I eat something with equal/sweet n lo/et cetera in it. I never have it deliberately, partly because I saw one packet that listed lactose as its primary ingredient.

So, I suppose I am fairly sure I've developed the link between the cause and symptom.
posted by Lucie at 9:19 PM on July 19, 2006


Also, I don't mind if people discuss the other effects of artificial sweeteners in this thread! Educational discussion is always good :)
posted by Lucie at 9:21 PM on July 19, 2006


You could try mixing up a packet with just plain water and see if you get the effect that way.
posted by reverendX at 9:32 PM on July 19, 2006


I understand the arguments against saccharin and the like. But sucralose (aka Splenda)? I haven't been able to find anything convincing. All of the skeptics seem to be pretty weak, or obviously biased, or (typically) both.

From random sources: I don't claim to be an unbiased source myself. Heck, I cook with MSG.

That said, if you consume sucralose, and it does funny things to you, you should probably stop eating things with sucralose in them.
posted by CrayDrygu at 10:22 PM on July 19, 2006


I do know for a fact MSG gives me headaches. The day after I eat chinese fast food I can always tell if they used MSG or not. And yes, I've semi-scientifically tested this ;)

Fwiw, though, I get the same sensation with regular sugar. My normal diet is very, very low in refined sugar, but when I have a lot for some reason, my gums itch & my teeth feel almost loose, almost instantly. Personally, my guess would be they're sweeter than most things you're used to, & you're having a reaction to that rather than some bizzare chemical reaction.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:11 AM on July 20, 2006


The person who wrote rinkjustice's looney link also wrote "How To Defeat Cancer - Naturally - without Chemo, Radiation, or Surgery." yeah.

As for lactose, I think most artificial sweeteners are so concentrated that when packaged they are cut with milk sugar just like smack. When used in sodas though they are used straight.

They differ so much from each other that if you have issues with all of them it is unlikely the sweetener itself.
posted by caddis at 1:13 AM on July 20, 2006


I pointed to a singular link people. There are so many studies published on the internet proving aspartame is a neurotoxin (as well as class-action lawsuits against the manufacturer and multinational conglomerates that use this dangerous additive in their products) that I thought this was common knowledge. This isn't breaking news people.

Reading this thread, I feel like I've stepped into the dark ages. I'd appreciate if rational, informed MeFites would please come forward and reassert the statement that food additives like aspartame, MSG and yes, sucralose are harmful to our bodies.
posted by rinkjustice at 1:16 AM on July 20, 2006


Wikipedia has a bit of background info on the controversy. And one page I found said that the European common market has banned all childrens products containing aspartame.

One aspartame related health issue about which there is zero controversy: phenylketonuria. People with this disorder cannot have aspartame. (For more info, see the wikipedia link). I assume that if Lucie had this disorder, she'd already know, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

If I were in Lucie's shoes and I wanted to know exactly why these sweeteners were having this odd effect on me, I'd do two things. 1. Keep an open mind until I found really convincing evidence for one hypothesis or another 2. Look into the information and evidence presented by those who say aspartame is so evil.
posted by Clay201 at 1:51 AM on July 20, 2006


I have to agree with Rinkjustice. Aspartame was pushed by a pharmaceutical company (G.D. Searle)...a little research on this product will likely scare the hell out of anyone. Sure, the FDA approved it. FDA is basically "financial dealings abound". Hate to sound like one of those conspiracy people, but anyone knows that we cannot blindly agree with the FDA or anyone that is likely to profit from specific entities. Some people still believe that cheese is a health food...I don't want to write a huge post here, go on the internet and research it.
posted by peglam at 2:16 AM on July 20, 2006


If you're showing any symptoms from aspartame, ye GODS stop taking anything with it. Aspartame messed me up BAD. I've never been the same. For awhile, they thought I might have MS. I was weak and sick, had weird twitches, constant brain fog, bad balance, couldn't even walk heel and toe. It was terrible... and it was aspartame poisoning. As soon as I stopped drinking diet sodas, my symptoms immediately started improving, although I've never fully recovered. It burned a lot of brain cells, and I'm much less intelligent than I once was.

Splenda is probably okay, and stevia almost certainly is. Stevia, however, tastes like anise (black licorice), so while it's intensely sweet, the flavor leaves a lot to be desired.

If you are diabetic and having trouble controlling your blood sugar, try stopping aspartame. It's known for messing up blood sugar regulation.

Also, be aware that getting off that stuff is really tough... it is powerfully addictive. I had a horrendous headache for two weeks. It was five times worse than any coffee headache I've ever had, and it was continuous for the entire time. Have lots of ibuprofen handy. It won't completely get rid of it, but it will help. Have another caffeine source available so you don't have to fight two addictions at once... tea works well, and is cheap.

The fact that aspartame makes you so miserable on the way out is _not_ a reason to stay on the stuff.
posted by Malor at 2:20 AM on July 20, 2006


Wait... stevia is okay, why? Because its "natural"? So is arsenic, my friend.

I'm sorry you were ill. I highly doubt it was aspartame.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 AM on July 20, 2006


studies published on the internet

Studies published on the internet, as opposed to in peer review journals, are always the most trusted.

Stevia is not without controversy either.
posted by caddis at 4:34 AM on July 20, 2006


If my roomate has a diet soda, he will get crazy migranes. and will sometimes lose sight in one eye. No tinfoil-hattery here, because I've seen it happen. I avoid that stuff at all costs, who needs artificial sweeteners when you can have a nice cool glass of water?
posted by Mach5 at 4:52 AM on July 20, 2006


From what I read, the Japanese did a big study of Stevia and found it to be quite safe. I hate the stuff, though, so I'll never use it anyway.

And Justinian, I don't particularly care what your opinion is. I was incredibly sick for months. I couldn't walk heel and toe, for chrissake. I was in for all kinds of expensive testing and got no answer from the doctors.

I stopped aspartame and 90% of the symptoms were gone within two weeks. I made no other diet or lifestyle changes. I'd already gotten rid of everything except the aspartame previously, even caffeine. My last vice was diet, caffeine-free Coke. As soon as I stopped that, I immediately started getting better. The headaches were incredibly intense, but within days I could tell I was otherwise improving.

I'm also now extremely intolerant of MSG... apparently cross-sensitivity is quite common. MSG symptoms are much less severe, but somewhat related. (mostly just brain fog.)

As an aside: Coke has a small amount of MSG in it, but not enough to make me sick like the aspartame does. That stuff is EVIL. I suspect MSG by itself isn't that bad. Then again, I look at the stupidity sweeping the country, and I sometimes can't help but wonder if MSG and aspartame are the modern equivalent of Roman lead piping. They sure messed me up.
posted by Malor at 5:03 AM on July 20, 2006


Malor, I think the collective point that the others are trying to make is that anecdotes do not a scientific study make. We understand the conclusion you reached, and might have even reached it ourselves had we gone through what you did--but, with all due respect, that doesn't necessarily make it accurate. The psychosomatic tendencies of our brain are lengendary, which is why science uses a control group.

Going on the internet and researching anything is often a recipe for misunderstanding.
posted by deadfather at 5:44 AM on July 20, 2006


What the science and pseudoscience cited in this thread is generally missing is a sense of proportion. Water is deadly if you drink enough of it. Taking chemicals, found in the environment or not, purifying them, and then expecting them to work fine in a body evolved/designed/created to work in a less pure environment will surely reveal adverse effects in a few people solely based on variances in genetic diversity. Some folks can't even have epinephrine and that is native to our bodies. I'll regret saying this but this is what natural selection looks like from the first person perspective. The environment is changing and we're responding. It isn't yet clear which side is "winning" so don't go there.

Lucie, sounds like you might have drawn the short straw of genetics. Please go have an allergy test done anyway, just in case. The no carb movement has managed to put a lot of these purified sweaters in our foods. Before that movement it was High Fructose Corn Syrup, and we've been fooling around with sodium for millennia. Anything not found on the periphery of a grocery store probably will have one of the three in higher than "common in nature" proportions. Caveat emptor.
posted by jwells at 5:50 AM on July 20, 2006


"... I suspect MSG by itself isn't that bad. ..."
posted by Malor at 8:03 AM EST on July 20


You'd be right, suspecting that, Malor. The average human body makes a lot of glutamate itself, everyday, and normally contains about 4 pounds of the stuff, concentrated in the gut and brain. Human milk is rich in glutamate. 50 milligrams worth of MSG in your pork fried rice is meaningless, except for making it taste a bit savory.

The scientific evidence for aspartame sensitivity is pretty nebulous, even 25 years after the wide introduction of the sweetner. Double blinded studies of persons claiming sensitivity have been small, and the drop out rates are so high as to call into question the sample size and methodology. If you are a person with severe and repeatable aspartame sensitivity, and want to do others with similar problems a big solid, please see about being included in further studies of this product. If there is damage being done, your willingness to participate in such studies may be very beneficial in proving , for once and for all, a link.

Personally, I thought I was aspartame sensitive, too, and dropped a big Diet Coke habit many years ago, when I also went through the whole headache thing for a couple of days. But later, I volunteered for a short duration, double blinded aspartame study, and didn't have exposure symptoms, when it turned out I surely should have. Sometimes, we think we've made an anecdotal correlation that is pretty strong, but really, we haven't.
posted by paulsc at 6:02 AM on July 20, 2006


Excerpt from SweetPoison.com:

"There are over 92 different health side effects associated with aspartame consumption. It seems surreal, but true. How can one chemical create such chaos? Aspartame dissolves into solution and can therefore travel throughout the body and deposit within any tissue. The body digests aspartame unlike saccharin, which does not break down within humans.

The multitude of aspartame side effects are indicative to your genetic individuality and physical weaknesses. It is important to put two and two together, nonetheless, and identify which side effects aspartame is creating within you."


I too got aspartame poisoning in March 2005. Scary as hell. I had hazy vision due to retinal deterioration, felt tight pressure in my skull, experienced memory loss and sudden spells of depression and confusion, and my blood-glucose levels were seriously out-of-whack for a long time. I was waking up in the middle of the night with incredible carb cravings which could only be satisfied with 3-4 bowls of cereal. Bizarre.

As for MSG, the stuff is truly EVIL. It's fed to laboratory animals to fatten them up for research without increasing their food intake. MSG consumption causes brain damage to young animals (which is why many baby food manufacturers voluntarily removed MSG from their products). Other symptoms include headaches, depression, irritability, mood swings, fatigue, seizures, reproductive dysfunction, digestive disturbance, and liver/gall bladder problems.

What's worse, food manufacturers disguise this toxic additive under more than 27 different names, so parents concerned for their childrens physical and neurological well-being will have a difficult time excluding MSG from their diets.

It wouldn't surprise me of the introduction of these harmful additives into our foods correlates with the steady increase of neurological disorders we see in our society today, from depression to ocd and anxiety attacks. We see diet foods and programs become a multi-billion dollar industry, and yet one third of the North American population is overweight and obesity is considered by many health professionals to be an epidemic.

Bottom line: People need to be accountable for their own health and not rely on the FDA and what food manufacturers deem as acceptable.
posted by rinkjustice at 6:27 AM on July 20, 2006


Rinkjustice, are you aware of the serious dangers posed by the proliferation of dihydrogen monoxide in our society! Most people aren't aware, but nearly 100% of deaths occur withing 24 hours of consuming this dangerous chemical!
posted by Justinian at 6:44 AM on July 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


As an aside: Coke has a small amount of MSG in it, but not enough to make me sick like the aspartame does. That stuff is EVIL. I suspect MSG by itself isn't that bad.

Malor, drink away - Coca-cola says MSG is not an ingredient, nor does mixing Coke with MSG make an aphrodisiac (there's a new one...).
posted by whatzit at 6:46 AM on July 20, 2006


whatzit: You just distorted what Malor and I posted! People should read first hand what I wrote, because that is NOT what I wrote!
posted by rinkjustice at 6:57 AM on July 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


I would not doubt that some people have issues with aspartame, or MSG. I think the point is that most people do not. The science suggesting problems seems pretty thin, probably because so few people are grossly affected.

If you have issues with MSG do not ever travel to Japan unless you take your own food. Well, that is probably an exaggeration, but the Japanese put MSG into just about everything.
posted by caddis at 7:04 AM on July 20, 2006


Caddis, that can't be correct. The Japanese live longer, healthier, thinner lives than we Americans do. Surely if they were ingesting the DEATH CHEMICAL MSG as you suggest this would not be the case.
posted by Justinian at 7:20 AM on July 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Maybe there's a magic Caucasian sensitivity to MSG! But in all seriousness, different people digest things differently. I personally avoid Nutrasweet and other aspartame derivatives because I got a headache the last time I had some, but that could have been coincidental for all I know.

I also was unable to eat more than one egg (scrambled, over easy, whatever) at a time for most of my childhood without having gut-wrenching stomach cramps. Does that mean eggs are some sort of systematic evil eating away at our society? No, it means I have (or had) a digestive system that sucks at eating eggs.

On the other hand, I use oyster sauce in recipes all the time and that stuff is packed with MSG. And I'm fairly neurotic! Then again, my non-MSG-eating relatives are neurotic too, so I can probably write that one off.
posted by mikeh at 7:49 AM on July 20, 2006


In rinkjustice' first post, s/he conflated aspartame, about which are are open questions on safety in the scientific community, and Splenda and other artificial sweetners, which are less controversial, if only because they're newer.

Except sodium cyclamates, about which newer science suggests that the US ban in the 70s was entirely unjustified -- and the stuff tastes good, even straight -- and yet you still can't buy it in the US.

So yes, clearly there's some controversy, and perhaps AskMe isn't the best place to flesh it out...

I think we'd probably all be well served to take a step back, here -- this thread is starting to have way too many comments where commenter A mentions commenter B by name, which is rarely good -- before Jessamyn has to come in and open her patented can of whupass on us. Hmmm?
posted by baylink at 9:57 AM on July 20, 2006


If you want some solid evidence on the safety of sweetners, I suggest you talk to your local diabetic clinic. Anyone with Type 1 diabetes will be either spending the rest of their lives drinking plain water or artificial sweetner based drinks. PERIOD. A coke has TWELVE teaspoons of sugar. That's plenty enough to kill many diabetics. Now, ask them how many years a person with Type 1 diabetes lives with it properly controlled through insulin (A good solid long time -- long enough for harmful sweetners to hurt them, that's for sure). And now ask them the percentage of them using artificial sweetners (95%? 99%? 100%?)

There are a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE, HUGE amount of people out there using such sweetners and not showing any symptoms from them at all.

700,000 Americans have spent the best part of their lives using said sweetners. If artificial sweetners caused such horrible diseases and at such a high incidence rate they were dangerous, don't you think most of the 700,000 Type 1 diabetics in America would be showing symptoms?

And no, I don't accept the idea that having diabetes protects you from any possible harmful effects of sweetners.

(And yes, I knew a diabetic that has spent all his life, give or take, using artificial sweetners. He doesn't seem to have had any effects from it whatsoever.)
posted by shepd at 10:00 AM on July 20, 2006


I haven't had that reaction with artificial sweeteners but I have felt it with overly sugary foods (and believe me you, it takes a lot for something to be overly sugary to me).

As other posters have said - we all react differently to different additives. Lucie - my advice would be to have a friend/family member do a blind test for you using sugar, aspartame and sucralose dissolved in water. You may find out whether it's happening as you believe. Or not. Other than that, see your doctor and/or stop eating/drinking foodstuff that has artificial sweeteners in it.

shepd - it's not just Type 1. I'm Type 2 and have used sugar free sweeteners for about 20 years - long before I was diagnosed and have no problems with them. That's not to say I will or won't have problems in the future. You just won't know until problems actually show up.
:^)

posted by deborah at 1:17 PM on July 20, 2006


People: WTF??

I had no idea this was such a sensitive issue. Jaysus.

First off, IIRC, aspartame & MSG are neurotransmitters. I know someone whose MSG sensitivity/allergy has landed him in the hospital. I, on the other hand, can eat it in abundance. Same with aspartame. Individuals have different reactions to different things.

If you want to eat aspartame by the cupful, be my guest. I know for a fact that I can't have it because I get blinding migraines from it, as well as numb patches on my back. I know it was aspartame because I eliminated one thing at a time from my diet and when I cut out aspartame everything went back to normal. This was ~years~ before the current meme of 'aspartame is the devil's food' or what have you, which is why I had to go through food after food. I did the diet pepsi last because I adored the stuff.

If I accidentally eat something with aspartame in it (for instance, they changed the formula in Alka Seltzer cold med to include the stuff, and I had no idea since I'd never had a problem with it and they didn't mark it as "Now having artificial sweeteners!!" ), I get a migraine within the hour, usually much faster.

You can scream about conspiracy theories and tin foil hats all you wish. It is totally irrelevant to the fact that this substance has that effect on me. If that's a problem for you, please feel free to disbelieve. It won't make a damned bit of difference as to what I know to be true. It doesn't matter if it's aspartame itself, an allergy I have, a sensitivity I've developed, whatever. It does this to me and I will not voluntarily put the stuff in my body.

Participate in a study which I know will give me migraine after migraine? Why would I want to do that? People will believe what they want to anyway. If we listened to science and medicine, America wouldn't, on the whole, be morbidly obese. There's enough scientific evidence about the correlation between that and heart disease/death to sink a battleship. Look around. What do you see?

To the OP, if you have this reaction, perhaps you should talk to a doctor who specializes in allergies. If you have an allergy or sensitivity to any or all artificial sweeteners I would think that s/he would be able to give you tests to figure out if you do, and if so which ones. It's a pain in the ass to have to check the label on each and every food you eat, but it beats the hell out of some of the alternatives. (The numbness, then pins & needles in my back started months before the migraines. If I'd stopped drinking the tons of Diet Pepsi, maybe my sensitivity wouldn't have gotten to the point it did. Who knows. *shrug*)
posted by Meep! Eek! at 2:02 PM on July 20, 2006


Not to derail the discussion of how aspartame is poison (which I believe it is), but maybe the OP was talking about the "cooling effect" that sweeteners like xylitol and erythritol provide?

Remember the old Certs advertisements, where they told you to inhale through pursed lips to feel that icy feeling? Xylitol does that. I bought some xylitol gum once and the cooling effect was so strong that the gum itself felt cold when you put a piece in your mouth, like it'd been refrigerated.
posted by bink at 2:45 PM on July 20, 2006


It's worth pointing out, regarding MSG, that glutamates (the "G" in MSG) do occur in nature -- which is why many oriental soups begin with boiling kombu, which releases glutamates into the water -- and that your own body produces glutamates as well. Glutamates are even found in breast milk. The "MS" in "MSG" is "monosodium," which means that some sodium has been attached to the glutamates. Remeber that sodium -- despite being toxic and, in powder form, explosive -- is also a component of table salt, which I'm sure everyone here has on an almost daily basis. It's all but impossible to avoid.

The two components separate when MSG is dissolved in water, allowing the now-free glutamates to flavor your food just as they would if they were put there naturally. Which, if your soup contains tomatoes, legumes, or cheese, there's free glutamates in there already. That's believed to be a large part of why parmesean cheese enhances the flavor of many foods so well. It's very high in free glutamates.

Also, manufacturers do not "hide" MSG under unassuming names. A product containing MSG is required to list "monosodium glutamate" in its ingredients. However, a product containing other sources of glutamates is not required to list an ingredient it does not contain. There are many, many completely natural sources of free glutamates, and they are so common that most prepared food products are likely to contain one.

Now, none of this is to say that people won't have adverse reactions to it. Peanuts, after all, are completely natural, but also deadly to some people. My mother is allergic to strawberries, and my uncle is allergic to shellfish.

The point is this: MSG is not an "evil" substance just because some people are allergic to it, and it is not a manufactured or unnatural substance like aspartame is. It's not just that glutamates occur naturally -- it's that they occur naturally in our food, from breast milk, to meat, to tomatoes, to soy, to cheese, to just about anything protein-based.
posted by CrayDrygu at 4:04 PM on July 20, 2006


rinkjustice wrote: "Other symptoms [of MSG] include headaches, depression, irritability, mood swings, fatigue, seizures, reproductive dysfunction, digestive disturbance, and liver/gall bladder problems."

Symptoms of excessive halite intake include dangerously elevated blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, and dehydration.

Symptoms of excessive dihydrogen monoxide intake include diarrhea, over-salivation, stupor, vomiting, muscle tremors, confusion, and swelling of the brain that can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Consuming too much sucrose or fructose is one of the leading causes of diabetes.

Too much trimethylxanthine in your system can cause confusion, twitching, loss of consciousness, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, or even death.

Those compounds are table salt, water, sugar, and caffiene.
posted by CrayDrygu at 4:14 PM on July 20, 2006


"... If that's a problem for you, please feel free to disbelieve. It won't make a damned bit of difference as to what I know to be true. ..."
posted by Meep! Eek! at 5:02 PM EST on July 20


Stand back followers of the scientific method everywhere, and put away your artifice and reason! All hail the First Church of Natural Sweetners...
posted by paulsc at 4:49 PM on July 20, 2006


Lucie, sounds like you might have drawn the short straw of genetics.

I'll try not to take that personally!

So, what I understand from this very exciting thread is that most people think it's likely to be the lactose allergy rather than artificial sweetener. For the record, I almost never deliberately eat/drink things with AS.

Also, I don't think I have phenylketonuria! The only symptom I have is that I'm the blond/blue eyed/fair throwback in a brunette family. My head is normal size and my teeth are perfectly straight, thank you! (At least I won THAT genetic fight)

I guess I'll get around to doing an allergy test. It sounds like whatever I have is uncommon, seeing as no-one on her has it/ has found it. Thanks for all your help, though.
posted by Lucie at 5:10 PM on July 20, 2006


Sidestepping all of the pro/con artificial sweetener baloney...

Is it possible you have sensitive teeth? Mine are sensitive to heat, cold, and sugar, and artifical sweeteners can set them off sometimes. I wouldn't describe the sensation as "numbness", but symptoms vary of course.
posted by mmoncur at 11:46 PM on July 20, 2006


> I'll try not to take that personally!

I should have added "for this specific thing" on the end. Sorry about that. To give you an idea of what I mean: for a person to get red hair, freckles on the body, and freckles on the face, requires three seperate mutations on a single gene (MC1R). They must inherit those mutations from both parents to make it dominant, so the chances of it *should* be very rare... but there are a lot of us out there! To really complicate it: both of my parents were brown haired with no freckles. So each had a recessive version of MC1R with all three mutations. The chances of two people with that specific combo meeting were astronomically high to begin with, let alone the genes working out like they did. There was a 75% chance I would be brown haired with no freckles. Instead I arrived and freaked everyone out.

So what I was saying was that for whatever reason, this specific problem could be happening because you inherited a mutation or whatever. It's happenstance. Blame your parents. I do. And the milkman. ;-)
posted by jwells at 5:54 AM on July 21, 2006


Also, manufacturers do not "hide" MSG under unassuming names. A product containing MSG is required to list "monosodium glutamate" in its ingredients. However, a product containing other sources of glutamates is not required to list an ingredient it does not contain. There are many, many completely natural sources of free glutamates, and they are so common that most prepared food products are likely to contain one.

That is completely not true, as you would know if you were MSG-sensitive. MSG is in nearly all packaged foods, and it's hidden on purpose, because manufacturers know that 'monosodium glutamate' will make many people put the can of Campbell's Soup back down. FDA rules state that only a substance that is 90% pure MSG has to be called MSG, so manufacturers use stuff with a lower concentration.

There are many ways to hide it... any -lyzed anything is MSG. (hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract) Milk protein, pea protein, or "modified" forms of same. (if it weren't MSG, they'd call it "peas" or "corn".)

And the big, #1, huge way they hide MSG? "Natural Flavors".
posted by Malor at 4:25 PM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


paulsc: Stand back followers of the scientific method everywhere, and put away your artifice and reason! All hail the First Church of Natural Sweetners..."

Nice. Take what I said out of context and be dismissive about it. Good tactic.

Unfortunately, what I actually said was that I had taken things out of my diet, one by one, and that the migraines went away when I removed aspartame from my diet, and so therefore I knew what was causing them for me. I said you could disbelieve that this was true, but it didn't matter to me because I knew it was true. Once again: for me.

I don't see any reason for your snark, especially since I was speaking from a 'this is what happened to me' perspective, not a 'this is evil to all' perspective. What's your ax?
posted by Meep! Eek! at 5:53 PM on July 21, 2006


"MSG is in nearly all packaged foods, and it's hidden on purpose [...] There are many ways to hide it... any -lyzed anything is MSG. (hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract)"

I reject the idea that it's "hidden on purpose." Glutamates are naturally present in all (or nearly all) proteins. Some of the processing that packaged foods go through result in these glutamates being "freed."

(Oh, and this is nitpicky, but despite the popularity of using "MSG" to refer to all free glutamates, "monosodium glutamate" means free glutamates that have been bound to sodium. The shaker of Accent or bag of Ajinomoto contain MSH. Autolyzed soy contains free glutamates.)

So given that the glutamates were already there, and that they are present in nearly all food anyway, I find it a bit absurd to suggest anything's being "hidden." Otherwise, you'd have to expect the manufacturers to disclose every chemical compound that gets extracted from the food as a consequence of its processing. That would be a rather long list of disclosures.

Instead of "hidden on purpose," I'm pretty sure that it's just "there, and we know it's there, but it's a component of the other ingredients and not an ingredient of its own." Like how nothing that contains eggs will go on to specify (egg whites, egg yolk, albumen).

But then, I'm one of those people who thinks it's stupid that tins of mixed nuts say "Warning: Contains nuts," so what do I know, eh?
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:41 PM on July 21, 2006


Cray, I know you mean well, but you are very ignorant. Once you become sensitive to MSG, especially as ludicrously sensitive as I am at this point, your outlook on life changes a very great deal.

I have a certain tolerance for the stuff... if I go without having any for a couple of weeks and clean my system out, I can eat some without symptoms. But once I'm showing symptoms, even small amounts of the stuff will make it worse.

If I eat foods that have any of the things I listed up there (plus a few others), I will get sick... to one degree or another, it changes based on the food. The amount will vary, but I'll always get sick. If I eat something like Top Ramen (and this is how I figured out I was sensitive), the symptoms are so bad that I'm completely crippled... to the point of irregular heartbeat and auditory hallucinations.

If I eat foods that don't contain the above, I won't get sick. It's really very simple. I can tell when a restaurant uses MSG, and I have to be very careful about where I eat. O Charley's (a Southern chain) uses TONS of the stuff. I got incredibly sick when I ate there. Burger King uses it in some things, but their Whoppers are pretty good, and their shakes seem okay. There's some MSG in the Whoppers, I think, probably in the ketchup and mayo, but it's a low dose. I think the shakes are completely clear. (I usually do vanilla, but I think the other ones are all right too.)

I shop a lot in health food stores, and let me tell you, just because it's labeled 'healthy' doesn't mean jack shit. At first I blindly bought the stuff I found there, only to get really ill from some of it. Even in a health food store, I have to shop carefully. Sometimes they change the ingredients on me, too, which has led to a few surprises.

As long as I stick with food that doesn't list the things up above, I'm fine. "Artificial Flavors" have rarely, if ever, bothered me. Old foods tend to be fine. The ice cream "Drumsticks", for instance, are MSG-free. Oreos were fine for a long time, but they started adding Natural Flavors sometime in the last year. Pop-Tarts are wildly not fine... they used to be moderately bad, to the point that I could eat a couple if I'd been good a week or so, but I think they increased their MSG load substantially sometime in the last 18 months. (Or else I'm more sensitive, also possible.)

I promise, swear on my father's grave, that MSG is in most foods, and it's added deliberately by food companies to make food taste better. They hide it because "monosodium glutamate" on the label will decrease sales, but tasting good will increase them. So they have a strong desire to both include it and be dishonest about including it.

Once I'm sensitized, I'll be able to tell you 10 times in 10 whether or not you prepared food from scratch or used a can. If I'm clean when the test starts, I might not notice at first, but I would within a day or two.

I have a recipe I picked up from here that I really like, stewed beef and beans and veggies in a crockpot. I eat this all the time and love it. About a month ago, I noticed I was really ill... it snuck up on me, too, took a few hours for me to realize I'd been dosed. I went and dug my ingredient containers out of the trash. I KNEW there was a problem somewhere. Turns out the supermarket-brand beans I'd bought instead of the Bush's I normally buy were actually beans "in sauce" (small print). The sauce included 'natural flavorings'. I'd missed that, and used them as I normally do, and I was sick for about a day. That's a form of blind testing... it's not as good as a real blind or double-blind test, but it's not bad. I didn't know it was there and wasn't expecting any problems. And BOY did I ever notice.

They DO hide it. And it IS deliberate.
posted by Malor at 7:52 AM on July 23, 2006


I should amend that I'm not absolutely certain that they changed Oreos. I used to be able to eat them without problems. (and of all the foods you'd think would be bad for you, god, Oreos would HAVE to top the list, eh?)

The last couple times I bought them, I got sick... the second time that happened, I checked the ingredients list, and I noticed natural flavors. It's a possibility that I have just gotten more sensitive, but I do think they changed their formula.
posted by Malor at 8:02 AM on July 23, 2006


Cray, Malor... let's calm down a bit, shall we?

Malor: I think the disconnect in this conversation is this: you're not *only* sensitive to monosodium glutamate. You're sensitive to *many related compounds*, some of which occur naturally in other foods, and some of which are parts of other non-MSG additives which are also used in compounded foods.

In other words, I believe you two are in violent agreement: you're saying the same thing, but in different words.

Or, maybe I'm trying to be helpful, and everyone *thinks* I'm being condescending, instead. I'll direct those people here.
posted by baylink at 12:27 PM on July 23, 2006


"I promise, swear on my father's grave, that MSG is in most foods..."

Did I not say that myself?
"Glutamates are naturally present in all (or nearly all) proteins."

"...glutamates ... are present in nearly all food..."

"There are many, many completely natural sources of free glutamates, and they are so common that most prepared food products are likely to contain one."
Oh yeah.

Nothing you said in your last two posts is at all at odds with what I've written, as far as I can tell. I understand you have a sensitivity to free glutamates, and I sympathise with you. It must be tough, given that most prepared foods are going to contain some. And just like anyone with an allergy or sensitivity, you're going to need to check those labels twice.

Preparing your own food yourself is cheaper, healthier, and tastes better anyway. I'm getting into the habit myself, and I don't even have any allergies. I just can't stand the amount of sodium that ends up in canned or prepared foods. I really don't understand why a single serving needs to contain 50% of your RDA of the stuff. At that point, it ruins the flavor.

(Oh, and yes, I said I cook with MSG...but never for guests, just in case.)
posted by CrayDrygu at 12:28 PM on July 23, 2006


The thing is, most food DOES have MSG, but it doesn't _have_ to. It's added to make it taste better. Normal food, real food that's not carefully formulated to try to maximize sales, doesn't have it. If you shop carefully, it's quite possible to avoid it.

It doesn't START OUT in the foods, it's added. Deliberately. And it's often added in multiple different forms to keep all of them near the bottom of the label. This is done to deceive you about what's in the food you're eating.

Once upon a time, I used MSG for cooking too. I wish I still could. Knowing what I now know, I never WOULD, but it would nice to be _able_ to.
posted by Malor at 12:11 PM on July 24, 2006


« Older Read/write permissions on an i...   |  Could a moderate diet and a lo... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.