The Truth About Gelatin

on May 10, 2021
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The Truth About Gelatin by Adrienne Samuels.

You’re likely to run into gelatin in some surprising places. While it’s commonly found in foods such as gelatin desserts (think Jell-O), aspic, marshmallows, gummy candies, vitamins, and other supplements (including pill capsules), it can also turn up used as a binder in yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese and anywhere a food manufacturer wants to create a good “mouthfeel” for their product.

But like sausages, nobody wants to see how gelatin is made.

Most of the gelatin found in food and supplements comes from heat-degraded collagen derived from pigs and cows. It’s an ugly process that completes the cruel loop of factory farming by taking bone, stripped skin, and connective tissue from slaughterhouses and processing them (through acid, heat, and grinding) into an innocuous-looking, tasteless powder.

There’s nothing in that bouncy gelatin dessert or a smiling gummy bear that will give a hint of the cruelty involved in its creation. But ethical concerns aside, there’s much more not to like about gelatin.

The Gelatin - MSG Connection

Although it might seem that a marshmallow Peep has nothing in common with a shaker of the MSG flavor-enhancer Accent, they are actually related as both contain manufactured free glutamate.

Just as drugs have side effects, manufactured free glutamate has side effects such as irritable bowel, headache, heart irregularities, and skin rash.  In addition, manufactured free glutamate is an excitotoxin: a neurologically active compound that in high concentrations has detrimental excitatory effects on the central nervous system and may cause injury to nerve cells.

Manufactured free glutamate is created in food ingredients when protein is broken down into its constituent amino acids. One of those amino acids will always be free glutamate.  It is also mass-produced using genetically modified bacteria that excrete glutamate through their cell walls.

In the case of gelatin, the Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology states that glutamic acid (a.k.a. glutamate) which makes up around 10 percent of gelatin, isn’t the only neurotoxic component released during the manufacturing process. Aspartic acid, another brain-damaging amino acid is also present at a level of around 6 percent. Both sources will cause the same adverse reactions in people, and according to experts like Dr. John Olney, both glutamic and aspartic acid will combine to produce a toxic double-whammy.

Might you have a noticeable reaction to a gelatin product? That would depend on your individual sensitivity as well as the amount of manufactured free glutamate you consume in foods along with the gelatin.  And your sensitivity is something that can change with age, illness, if you suffer a head injury, or consume a large amount of manufactured free glutamate.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Look at any gelatin-containing product in the store and you won’t see any mention whatsoever of glutamic acid, aspartic acid (or pigskin and tendons being bathed in acid for that matter). But beyond packaging, which fails to disclose important information about the possible toxic effects of gelatin, are the lies circulated by Big Food to convince you to buy their products.

You’ll hear that manufactured free glutamate is “naturally occurring,” has been extensively studied and found to be “safe,” and the biggest whopper of all -- that the glutamate in the human body is exactly the same as what you’ll find in foods such as gelatin. The real story is that all manufactured free glutamate contains impurities that are unavoidable by-products of the manufacturing process.

But what about “kosher” or even “vegetarian” gelatin, are those better choices?

A Fishy Proposition

Kosher gelatin can be derived from either fish or cows certified as kosher and killed in a specific manner. Since kosher rules prohibit the combining of meat and dairy, if you notice kosher gelatin in a dairy product, it’s probably fish-derived.

Fish byproducts such as skin, scales, and bones contain high amounts of collagen, and the processing will release neurotoxic free glutamate just as with gelatin from cows or pigs. Published research out of Indonesia has found free glutamic acid amounts in fishbone gelatin ranging from a low of over seven percent to a high of over 10 percent, with aspartic acid going from a low of close to five percent to a high of 6.5 percent, depending on the type of fish.

Vegetable Gelatin

As far as veggie gelatin goes, it too has issues.

Produced from processed algae and seaweed (a marine algae), vegetarian gelatins are derived from rich sources of certain amino acids that will also contain significant amounts of free glutamate and aspartic acid after processing.

If gelatin is something you’ve decided to avoid, it pays to read the ingredient labels of all processed foods and supplements thoroughly, as well as pharmaceuticals (including OTC drugs). And while you won’t be able to determine if the gelatin came from pigs, cows, or fish, the name gelatin is required to be listed on the packaging.

Resources:

The Free Dictionary   https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/excitotoxin  (accessed 5/4/21)

Amino acid and proximate composition of fish bone gelatin from different warm-water species: A comparative study.  
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/58/1/012008 (accessed 5/4/21)


About The Author

Adrienne Samuels is co-founder and director of the Truth in Labeling Campaign, established over 25 years ago with her husband Jack. With a degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin and focus on research design, methodology and statistics, Adrienne was well equipped to analyze Jack's mysterious "illness" -- what began with anaphylactic shock. She has spent the last 30 years building her knowledge of MSG and its toxic glutamate component, sharing that information in a book, through articles, and through the Truth in Labeling Campaign website.

Alternatives to Gelatin

2 User Reviews
5 star (2) 
  100%


Posted by Donna F. (Hartford CT) on 05/11/2021

I have my blood pressure meds compounded into gelatin caps because I'm allergic to pine and sulfites and they may be in veggie caps. Omg now what? Msg is an afib trigger for me!

Replied by Sue
(Ohio)
05/11/2021

Donna,

Unless you find that your compounded meds are bothering you, I would not worry about it. (Worry is an afib trigger, too! ) MSG is naturally in foods. I think if the capsule thing were a significant risk, other natural health websites would be sure to have info about it. I have tried to research this and haven't found info enough to convince myself that I would be better off not using capsules.

Sue-zee-q

Replied by KT
(Usa)
05/12/2021

Hi Donna,

The veggie caps are also toxic to me. Serrapeptase and Bromelain are in vegetable capsules. The Bromelain alone caused my prolapse.

KT


Alternatives to Gelatin
Posted by John (WA) on 05/10/2021
5 out of 5 stars

What about using china grass instead of gelatin?

Replied by KT
(Usa)
05/11/2021

I believe capsules are only a convenient way to take meds/vitamins and don't need to be ingested. For decades, I have been opening capsules and pouring contents in a mouthful of water or mixing in applesauce. If a gel cap, l bite it to remove contents and spit the capsule out.

I don't know anything about China grass, sorry.

KT

Replied by Adrienne Samuels
(USA)
05/11/2021

China grass is another name for agar-agar, which is derived from algae, and thus a vegetarian product. By and large vegetables contain relatively little protein, but if the algae are subjected to a process that will break protein into its constituent amino acids, glutamate will be produced. The only way to tell if there is glutamate in a product is to get a free amino acid analysis and look for the free glutamic acid (aka glutamate) content. Bottom line is there will be little, if any, glutamate in china grass, and certainly less than in gelatin.


Alternatives to Gelatin
Posted by Linda P. (California) on 05/10/2021
5 out of 5 stars

Well that article was an eye opener. I have used kosher vegetarian gel caps in my turmeric and other supplements for over a decade. What is a safe healthy alternative?

Replied by KT
(Usa)
05/11/2021

I open capsules and pour out contents. If it is a gel cap, I bite it open to remove contents.

KT

Adrienne Samuels
(USA)
05/11/2021

If by “safer” you mean containing less glutamate, a safer alternative would be capsules made from vegetable cellulose. Cellulose is basically plant fiber, and one of the most common sources is wood pulp. Manufacturers grind up the wood and extract the cellulose.


Gelatin Capsules and Pelvic Prolapse Connection

1 User Review
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Posted by KT (USA) on 03/09/2013
5 out of 5 stars

I am in my sixties and discovered that gelatin capsules are what caused my prolapse. I could not tolerate ingesting capsules. I always opened them and took the contents. When I started to use the stool softeners I had to swallow the capsule(s). I then experienced the prolapse... This was just this past Dec.

When I stopped using the gelatin capsule stool softeners, the prolapse began to subside. I juggle between probiotics, magnesium powder and the stool softeners. When I walk, go up and down the stairs or stand at the kitchen sink I do Kegels. I also do them when I lift ten lbs. from the floor... As you come up, tuck & squeeze your butt. I was fortunate to recognize this early enough to fix it (just a few months), so if anyone has ingested supplements in capsules for a period of time it may take longer.

Replied by Bob.
(U.S.A.)
05/11/2021

As far as a natural stool softener / laxative goes w/o any gelatin or MSG just use a tsp / tbs. of wheatgrass with meals, before going to bed or as needed, adjust the dose as needed. This will do both very quickly speaking from personal experience.

Add activated charcoal as needed to supercharge it, speeds it up and helps with detoxing the body. You are better off buying the activated charcoal & wheatgrass in bulk 1-pound, more or less according to personal need, just sprinkle both on some yogurt or kefir, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, something thick to absorb it, so you don't inhale it.


MSG in Supplements

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Posted by Pamela W (Edmond, OK) on 05/10/2021
5 out of 5 stars

What about collagen peptides from cowhide? I see the ingredients list both glutamic and aspartic acid on the jar I've been using. Supposed to be for hair skin nails & joints. Is this bogus?

Replied by KT
(Usa)
05/11/2021

Hi Pamela,

I am sorry I don't know anything about collagen peptides. I had been informed by the late Jack Samuels that magnesium and vitamin C can provide some protection against MSG toxicity.

KT

Replied by Adrienne Samuels
(Chicago, IL USA)
05/11/2021

Since the ingredient list names glutamic acid and aspartic acid, one could assume they are both ingredients of collagen. There's nothing deceptive about that.


NAC and Glutatmate

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Posted by Diane (MN) on 06/01/2021
5 out of 5 stars

NAC and glutamate and relevancy to gelatin:

If free glutamate is an excitotoxin, it sounds like someone with anxiety or sleep issues should avoid gelatin. I have those issues and take a lot of supplements so will have to try to cut down on those in gelatin capsules by opening them up as suggested, except the ones like fish oil and Q10 are harder to deal with. My doctor has me taking NAC for anxiety which apparently lowers glutamate levels in the brain, don't know how that might be relevant or helpful.

Replied by Charity
(faithville, Us)
06/02/2021

Ted's Remedies, MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) Poisoning (earthclinic.com)

as for me, I use L-taurine to displace MSG and I don't eat a lot of prepared foods. Many things we come in contact with just need another thing to get it to move along. Like soy lecithin granules emulsify bad fats out of the body, otherwise, they sit in your organs and add to the scales.