A small pilot research at carried out in Meru, eastern Kenya, shows a link between chronic pain and the consumption of glutamate. Glutamate is a common flavor enhancer used in many diets worldwide. The study demonstrated that study participants who cut down their consumption of glutamate experienced an improvement in their symptoms.
This preliminary study is a breakthrough given that chronic pain is one of the most excruciating maladies in the world. The prevalence of the condition seems to be the same in developing and developed countries.
"This preliminary research in Kenya is consistent with what I am observing in my chronic pain research here in the United States," lead author of the study and assistant professor of health studies at American University, Kathleen Holton said. "We don't know what exposure is leading to this susceptibility to dietary glutamate, but this pilot study suggests the need for a large-scale clinical trial, since dietary change could be an effective low-cost treatment option for developing countries."
The study includes new insights on how monosodium glutamate works in the body. It is known that glutamate is actually a common neurotransmitter. It can also work as an excitotoxin, over-stimulating or killing nerve cells. Research has found that consumption of glutamate might increase the symptoms of chronic pain.
Glutamate is naturally found in some foods but it is also used as an additive food enhancer. In Kenya, where the study was held, the main access the public has to MGT is from a mixed seasoning spice known as Mchuzi Mix.
The study consisted of several groups. One group that typically consumed Mchuzi Mix, were given water and a Mchuzi Mix substitute with no MGT. Those who reported no consumption of Mchuzi Mix and low water intake were just asked to increase their water intake (to factor pain from lack of water consumption). The group with low water consumption was given water and the substitute spices. The control consisted of those with neither exposure and given acetaminophen.
Those who cut down on MGT and drank more water reported an improvement of symptoms just like the group that was given just acetaminophen.