Friday, March 8, 2013

Monosodium Glutamate

One of the documentaries I watched the other day warned against Monosodium Glutamate (or MSG as we know it).  I had heard of it, and assumed it was "bad" since I had seen "our food does not contain MSG" posted on the menus at Chinese restaurants.  I also assumed that since/if it was bad that it was something used a long time ago and wasn't in food anymore.  I was wrong.  A LOT of products contain MSG.  So I did some research and this is what I've found.

MSG is a food additive found in a lot of processed foods, used in restaurants, and even in some baby formula as a "flavor enhancer".  It makes foods taste and smell better and makes canned foods taste less metallic.  Although it has no taste it can trick you in to thinking your food tastes better than it does with the fifth basic taste: umami .

The following was taken from
MSG: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets by Dr. Mercola

In 1959, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled MSG as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS), and it has remained that way ever since. Yet, it was a telling sign when just 10 years later a condition known as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” entered the medical literature, describing the numerous side effects, from numbness to heart palpitations, that people experienced after eating MSG.
Today that syndrome is more appropriately called “MSG Symptom Complex,” which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifies as "short-term reactions" to MSG. More on those “reactions” to come.

Why MSG is so Dangerous
One of the best overviews of the very real dangers of MSG comes from Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon and author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills.” In it he explains that MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees -- and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.
Part of the problem also is that free glutamic acid is the same neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas and other organs use to initiate certain processes in your body.  Even the FDA states:
“Studies have shown that the body uses glutamate, an amino acid, as a nerve impulse transmitter in the brain and that there are glutamate-responsive tissues in other parts of the body, as well.
Abnormal function of glutamate receptors has been linked with certain neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's chorea. Injections of glutamate in laboratory animals have resulted in damage to nerve cells in the brain.”
Although the FDA continues to claim that consuming MSG in food does not cause these ill effects, many other experts say otherwise.
According to Dr. Blaylock, numerous glutamate receptors have been found both within your heart's electrical conduction system and the heart muscle itself. This can be damaging to your heart, and may even explain the sudden deaths sometimes seen among young athletes.
He says:
“When an excess of food-borne excitotoxins, such as MSG, hydrolyzed protein soy protein isolate and concentrate, natural flavoring, sodium caseinate and aspartate from aspartame, are consumed, these glutamate receptors are over-stimulated, producing cardiac arrhythmias.
When magnesium stores are low, as we see in athletes, the glutamate receptors are so sensitive that even low levels of these excitotoxins can result in cardiac arrhythmias and death.”
Many other adverse effects have also been linked to regular consumption of MSG, including:
  • Obesity
  • Eye damage
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue and disorientation
  • Depression
Further, even the FDA admits that “short-term reactions” known as MSG Symptom Complex can occur in certain groups of people, namely those who have eaten “large doses” of MSG or those who have asthma.
According to the FDA, MSG Symptom Complex can involve symptoms such as:
  • Numbness
  • Burning sensation
  • Tingling
  • Facial pressure or tightness
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
No one knows for sure just how many people may be “sensitive” to MSG, but studies from the 1970s suggested that 25 percent to 30 percent of the U.S. population was intolerant of MSG -- at levels then found in food. Since the use of MSG has expanded dramatically since that time, it’s been estimated that up to 40 percent of the population may be impacted.
How to Determine if MSG is in Your Food
Food manufacturers are not stupid, and they’ve caught on to the fact that people like you want to avoid eating this nasty food additive. As a result, do you think they responded by removing MSG from their products? Well, a few may have, but most of them just tried to “clean” their labels. In other words, they tried to hide the fact that MSG is an ingredient.
How do they do this? By using names that you would never associate with MSG.
You see, it’s required by the FDA that food manufacturers list the ingredient “monosodium glutamate” on food labels, but they do not have to label ingredients that contain free glutamic acid, even though it’s the main component of MSG.
There are over 40 labeled ingredients that contain glutamic acid, but you’d never know it just from their names alone. Further, in some foods glutamic acid is formed during processing and, again, food labels give you no way of knowing for sure.

Tips for Keeping MSG Out of Your Diet
In general, if a food is processed you can assume it contains MSG (or one of its pseudo-ingredients). So if you stick to a whole, fresh foods diet, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll avoid this toxin.
The other place where you’ll need to watch out for MSG is in restaurants. You can ask your server which menu items are MSG-free, and request that no MSG be added to your meal, but of course the only place where you can be entirely sure of what’s added to your food is in your own kitchen.
To be on the safe side, you should also know what ingredients to watch out for on packaged foods.

Here is a list of ingredients that ALWAYS contain MSG:
Autolyzed Yeast
Calcium Caseinate
Glutamic Acid
Monopotassium Glutamate
Monosodium Glutamate
Yeast Extract
Textured Protein
Hydrolyzed Protein
Sodium Caseinate
Yeast Nutrient
Yeast Food 

These ingredients OFTEN contain MSG or create MSG during processing:
Flavors and Flavorings


Natural Chicken Flavoring

Anything Enzyme Modified
Soy Sauce
Malt Extract
Malt Flavoring
Natural Flavors and Flavorings
Soy Protein Isolate
Soy Protein
Natural Pork Flavoring
Natural Beef Flavoring
Corn Starch
Barley Malt
Citric Acid
Anything Ultra-Pasteurized
Powdered Milk
Anything Protein Fortified

So if you do eat processed foods, please remember to be on the lookout for these many hidden names for MSG.
Choosing to be MSG-Free
Making a decision to avoid MSG in your diet as much as possible is a wise choice for nearly everyone. Admittedly, it does take a bit more planning and time in the kitchen to prepare food at home, using fresh, locally grown ingredients. But knowing that your food is pure and free of toxic additives like MSG will make it well worth it.
Plus, choosing whole foods will ultimately give you better flavor and more health value than any MSG-laden processed food you could buy at your supermarket."

You can also visit MSG for a list of specific products at stores and restaurants that contain MSG.

READ YOUR INGREDIENT LISTS!!  I had three products sitting on my dining room table for one meal that had Monosodium Glutamate listed on their labels, but how many more were lurking in my fridge and cupboards or ones that snuck it in by it being an ingredient within an ingredient?

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