No doubt you have heard that monosodium glutamate is not good for you. I’m wondering whether you think you are not eating it because you skip Chinese food unless the restaurant says they don’t use MSG? The sad truth, MSG is still a tasty poison in our foods.
Monosodium glutamate recreates a natural flavor called “umami.” It is sometimes referred to as the “fifth flavor,” after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Umami is a savory and meaty taste, typically found in long-cooked or fermented foods.
Ajinomoto Company from Japan discovered that synthetic umami could season foods cheaply, without the time and work involved in traditional flavored foods.
The Flavor Packet Is Born
Suddenly the home cook could add a little MSG-spiked “flavor packet” and create a meal that is bursting with savory flavor. Simple and inexpensive, but there’s a hidden cost to those who eat it. The synthetic “magic” ingredient also stimulates the appetite, so food manufacturers added it to their products. An easy way to encourage more consumption, right?
The debate about the safety of MSG is ongoing. There have been studies that say it is safe, yet many of those studies were funded by industry – a conflict of interest.
In a JAMA review of studies on the health effects of common foods, one of the reviewers said, “If a study is funded by the industry, it may be closer to advertising than science.” Some claim that glutamate occurs naturally in food, but the synthetic MSG acts differently in the body.
What Is Glutamate
Glutamate is both an amino acid and a neurotransmitter. Its stimulating effect is important for learning and memory. What is naturally found in foods is balanced by a variety of other amino acids, magnesium to provide a relaxing effect, and B vitamins that convert it to calming GABA.
Eating MSG adds fast glutamate that is overly excitatory to neurons and generates lots of free radicals. That depletes antioxidants and causes cell damage, especially in the brain.
Bottom line: consuming foods with MSG flavoring increases food intake, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome. Some are more susceptible and experience headaches, agitation, insomnia, and even seizures.
Where Do You Find It?
MSG is found maintained in savory products. Anything with a flavor packet is a big clue (think rice mixes and instant soups), anything cheesy (Cheez-Its, Goldfish, mac, and cheese) or intensely flavored (ranch dressing, flavored chips, etc.).
Since most people don’t want to eat MSG, manufacturers have gotten tricky. They use a variety of names to hide it in the ingredient list. Sadly, I have seen many foods with 3 or 4 of these ingredients, as though one weren’t enough. Check out the very long list of MSG pseudonyms.
Check out your pantry or desk drawer. Any snack items, food mixes, flavor packets, salad dressings? Pull them out and turn them around to read the ingredient list.
If you find some of these in a product, you have a decision to make. Keep eating it and hope the effects of the MSG don’t catch up to you. Or choose to avoid this tasty poison and its effects – pursue wellness by tossing it out.