Migraine Linked to Glutamate Balancing Gene

September 01, 2010

Migraine Linked to Glutamate Balancing Gene 

 Sept 1, 2010 Reference: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/News-scientists-expose-migraine-causing-gene-083110.aspx Competency:  Brain Health 

 This is a first.  An international collaboration of genetic databases looking at 3,000 patients with chronic migraine to 10,000 folks without migraine, and then expanding that to another 3,000 migraine sufferers and 40,000 controls found a common set of genetic disorders that are highly associated with migraine headaches.  What the gene codes for is the level of glutamate between nerve cells.  It’s the Gap that matters. 

Glutamate is one of the most common neurotransmitters in the brain.  Nerve cells pass messages between each other by releasing tiny packets of neurotransmitters (there are about 50 different neurotransmitters) which then react with the linking nerve cell.  The transmitter is then digested, reabsorbed, or excreted.  The level remaining between the nerve cells is incredibly tightly regulated.  Glutamate has been covered in this column just a couple of months ago because of the building body of evidence that links excess glutamate in our diets to a host of problems like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s. The variant gene the researchers found alters the level of the activity of the EATT2 gene, which manages the level of glutamate clearing in the nerve connection gap.  The EAAT2 gene have previously been linked to other neurological diseases like epilepsy, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. Of course, this is way to early to be certain about anything because this is just finding a genetic link.  

What catches my eye is that this link fits so tightly with a pattern of burgeoning neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that have multiplied in their frequency in recent decades.  In these decades we have been subjected to huge quantities of MSG in our diets as a flavor enhancer and aspartame in our drinks as a sweetener.  MSG (monosodium glutamate) and aspartate (part of aspartame) are neurotransmitters that affect the glutamate receptor.  Credible research in animals shows that the dietary level of MSG that we humans have is shown clearly to cause “neuroexcitotoxicity” in delicate parts of the brain, the very parts that are damaged in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and ALS.  

Neuroexcitotoxicity means nerve cells get inspired to fire off, and fire off, and fire off and fire, fire, fire and then die.  They don’t know how to stop.  In Parkinson’s, some 90% of the glutamate firing nerve cells in the substantia nigra are dead before we develop Parkinson’s.  But many of us in America have 30-40% of those cells dead when we die, but we never got Parkinson’s.  Folks in other parts of the world who never eat MSG or aspartame die with no cells in their substania nigra damaged.  

This suggests, (doesn’t prove) that MSG and aspartame are causing problems (in the gap). Now we see a genetic link that connects migraines, the most expensive neurological disease in America (one in six women and one in 12 men suffering from it) to the levels of glutamate in our brain nerve connections. What makes this so interesting to me is that I’ve personally seen several close friends have dramatic improvement in their migraines when they ceased drinking aspartame.  And any good migraine clinic worth its salt will have a preliminary instruction to their new patients to get off of all products that have MSG and aspartame in them.  That means virtually no diet soda.  And, as we reviewed before, finding prepared foods without MSG is no mean feat.  Try it.  It’s a real challenge. 

 WWW. What will work for me?  I’ve been avoiding MSG and aspartame for several months now.  I’m getting used to the taste of clear water and liking it.  I’ve found some Stevia containing Crystal Lite products, and bought them.   I like them!  And the loved ones in my family who get migraines certainly all know about it.  If you are “twenty nine” and wanting to be young and sharp in your thinking forever, keep your eye out for MSG and aspartame.  Let’s all grow gracefully older together.  Mind Your Gap!

Column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI 53045 (262-784-5300).