World-wide obesity has risen to alarming levels. The average weight of German conscripts now increases by almost 400 g/year. Similar data were obtained in Austria, Norway and the UK. The rising prevalence of obesity coincides with a rising popularity of protein-rich diets. On average, Germans consume meat at 100 kg/year. Children eat some threefold more protein than recommended; infants of 6 to 12 months receive daily up to 5 g/kg body weight of protein. We hypothesise that it is not the protein, but the amino acid glutamate that determines the propensity of obesity. Chronic hyperglutamataemia may intoxicate arcuate nucleus (AN) neurons, thereby disrupting the hypothalamic signalling cascade of leptin action, causing hyperphagia, obesity and hyperleptinaemia. Hyperleptinaemia also exerts sympathetic effects including blood pressure elevation that are mediated via mechanisms different from the hypothalamic system, and other symptoms of the 'metabolic syndrome'. This may happen even before birth when in small-for-gestational-age foetuses with impaired umbilical plasma flow, foetal hyperglutamataemia induces AN damage followed by later impairment of feeding regulation, hyperleptinaemia and symptoms that characterise the 'thrifty phenotype'. We suggest abandoning the flavouring agent monosodium glutamate and reconsidering the recommended daily allowances of protein and amino acids, particularly during pregnancy.