A high dietary intake of sodium glutamate as flavoring (ajinomoto) causes gross changes in retinal morphology and function

Exp Eye Res. 2002 Sep;75(3):307-15.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of glutamate accumulation in vitreous on retinal structure and function, due to a diet high in sodium glutamate. Three different diet groups were created, consisting of rats fed on a regular diet (diet A), a moderate excess of sodium glutamate diet (diet B) and a large excess of sodium glutamate diet (diet C). After 1, 3 and 6 months of the administration of these diets, amino acids concentrations in vitreous were analyzed. In addition, retinal morphology and function by electroretinogram (ERG) of three different diet groups were studied. Significant accumulation of glutamate in vitreous was observed in rats following addition of sodium glutamate to the diet as compared to levels with a regular diet. In the retinal morphology, thickness of retinal neuronal layers was remarkably thinner in rats fed on sodium glutamate diets than in those on a regular diet. TdT-dUTP terminal nick-end labelling (TUNEL) staining revealed significant accumulation of the positive staining cells within the retinal ganglion cell layers in retinas from diets B and C as compared with that from diet A. Similar to this, immunohistochemistry demonstrated increased expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) within the retinal inner layers from diets B and C as compared with diet A. Functionally, ERG responses were reduced in rats fed on a sodium glutamate diets as compared with those on a regular diet. The present study suggests that a diet with excess sodium glutamate over a period of several years may increase glutamate concentrations in vitreous and may cause retinal cell destruction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Diet*
  • Electroretinography
  • Female
  • Food Additives / administration & dosage
  • Food Additives / pharmacology*
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Retina / drug effects*
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retina / physiopathology
  • Sodium Glutamate / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Glutamate / pharmacology*
  • Vitreous Body / chemistry


  • Amino Acids
  • Food Additives
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Sodium Glutamate