By John Erb
His name was Bruce. He was always ready to greet me with a smile whenever I came in to work with him at the residential facility he called home. Bruce was my first experience getting to know someone with Autism. Even though he was forty, and had lived all his life with the symptoms, he had never been formally diagnosed. But even without the paperwork from a psychiatrist to back it up, Bruce had all of the standard signs: the problems with social interaction, the obsessions, the repetitive physical movement. He also had one more thing: he was fluent in French. It was those many years ago when I first met Bruce that I realized, in some ways, he was smarter than me.
This experience twenty years ago shaped my view of Autism and the direction of the research journey I have taken. In 2003 I finally put my ideas to paper. In the book called The Slow Poisoning of America, I theorized that something was actually causing the brains of those with ASD to grow too much. The culprit: Monosodium Glutamate. Introduced to the America diet in 1950 it is an amino acid added to food to make it taste better and to vaccines to stabilize the active ingredients. At the time I published this idea I had little scientific evidence to support it, more of a “hunch” than hard core science. But over the last 5 years I have gathered enough published medical studies to validate a highly probable link between this excitotoxin and the Autism epidemic.
In 2004 I personally met with Dr. Wakefield, author of the MMR theory, and Dr. Rimland of Defeat Autism Now. They thought my theory was interesting, taking my book and copies of my research, but were disappointed that I did not have the title of Dr. behind me. They also said I lacked the “smoking gun”: scientific evidence that glutamate caused brain growth. Undaunted I journeyed on speaking to many top media people, politicians and finally spoke to Dr. Jorgen Schlundt, Director of Food Safety for the World Health Organization. He told me that I could send him my report on the dangers of Monosodium Glutamate and that if I wrote it well enough that he would call a meeting of his committee. I immediately gathered all my research together to create a report and, as luck would have it, found the smoking gun: a report by K. Schlett done in June of 2006 proving that glutamate causes a proliferation and differentiation of brain cells. Not only does it make the brain grow abnormally, but alters the kind of brain cells created.
Suddenly the pieces of the puzzle began to take shape. The studies I had gathered that showed people with ASD had larger brains and the ones that revealed an odd difference in white and gray brain matter made sense when glutamate was considered. The main reason mercury has been pushed has been due to the abnormal deposits of it found in people with Autism. But in studies mercury has always been shown to reduce the growth of the brain, not increase it. Carol Hornlien, food scientist and creator of www.msgtruth.com revealed the reason: High levels of MSG reduces the liver’s production of Cysteine. This leads to a reduction in Glutathione which aids in the removal of heavy metals in the body. With less Glutathione, the metals collect in the body. High Mercury would then be a symptom of Autism, and not the cause.
I had hoped that the Autism community would embrace such a phenomenal revelation as this but after meeting with and speaking to many of the elite in the research and funding organizations I found that they had put too much effort into the mercury connection to even consider glutamate. When the Autism Genome Project was finished the main finding of the research scientists was that there was a connection with the genes dealing with Glutamate transport. Yet still the theory that MSG in vaccines and food is causing Autism has gotten little attention from the Autism organizations.
In spite of the lack of funding to explore the connection, recent studies have supported the possibility. Page and Daly et al in 2006 concluded that “Abnormalities in glutamate/glutamine may partially underpin the pathophysiology of autistic spectrum disorders. Shinohe, Hashimoto et al in 2007 determined that their “study suggests that an abnormality in glutamatergic neurotransmission may play a role in the pathophysiology of autism. Even in 2001 Glutamate was being scientifically connected with Autism. Purcell, Jeon et al. concluded that “subjects with autism may have specific abnormalities in the AMPA-type glutamate receptors and glutamate transporters in the cerebellum. These abnormalities may be directly involved in the pathogenesis of the disorder.”
Yet why is there so little follow up on what shows to be a fruitful direction for Autism research? I think a recent reporter from the Chicago Tribune explained it best in her email. After 4 hours of interviews with me, the story about MSG that appeared in the November 27th, 2008 newspaper did not reflect her original copy. In an apologetic email she said “another editor read it and kept insisting that MSG is totally safe and that we should not talk about any theories people in the MSG or autism communities are sharing with each other. I was sure that somehow the hand of the glutamate industry was at work but it could just demonstrate the industry's success at convincing people that it’s totally safe.”
What is everyone so afraid of?
Are they avoiding the fall out on the fast food and processed food industry like KFC, Campbell’s, Heinz and all the other companies that use MSG as an addictive substance to make people eat more of their product?
Whatever the issue, on November 30th, 2007, the inaugural meeting of the Interagency Autism Committee was held in the Ronald Reagan building in Washington D.C. Before a veritable who’s who of the Autism community from the Presidents of parent groups to the directors of the top research branches, Secretary of Health Michael Leavitt opened the session. But very little attention was paid to the final speaker of the day.
I stood at the microphone, the Director of NIMH sitting beside me and said “Thirty years ago Autism was 1 in 10,000. Today it is 1 in 140. At this growth rate in thirty years Autism will be 1 in 2. We have more to worry about than global warming.” After explaining to those present the connections between MSG in food and Vaccines and the aberrant brain growth it can trigger I ended my speech by saying “I am not here to ask for funding, I am not here to ask for more research. I am here to tell you that I am going to get Monosodium Glutamate removed from the food and vaccine supply. Then, five years from now, when there are no more children born with Autism, you will know I was right.”
Unfortunately my friend Bruce has passed away, but somehow I know he’d be proud.
Please visit John's site at Slow Poisoning of America.