April 10, 2014 by Dr. Sana Keller
As if it isn’t challenging enough to make healthy food choices by checking out the ingredient list before buying…now we’re supposed to remember the over 40 different names of ingredients containing MSG—really?? Although manufacturers cannot add MSG to foods without including it on the label, ingredients that contain MSG can be added without naming MSG on the label—even though the ingredients may contain MSG. Even worse, food products can contain 98% pure MSG and yet not be included on the label since the FDA only requires MSG to be listed as an added ingredient if it is 99% pure MSG. As the saying goes…Houston, we have a problem…
Monosodium glutamate or ‘MSG’ is the most widely used flavor enhancer that changes how our taste buds register the taste of foods. It can actually make bad-tasting (& usually cheap) foods taste great. The savory flavor called ‘umami’ is the taste of glutamate. Now that ‘the word’ is getting out about the harmful health effects of MSG, the food industry has disguised it in over 40 FDA-approved ingredients that contain MSG, with long chemical names, none of which sound like MSG. (Partial list at end of post.)
Glutamic acid (an amino acid and the main component of MSG) is naturally found in whole foods (non-processed foods) like meats, grains, dairy and vegetables. It is metabolized normally by our bodies without any negative reactions. It is released as our bodies break down proteins during the digestive process and doesn’t cause problems since whole foods don’t contain high amounts of glutamic acid.
MSG is an excitotoxin in the brain, which means that it overstimulates the brain and causes excessive amounts of dopamine to be produced, which can cause a nice ‘rush’ sensation. It is highly addictive, causing those who eat MSG-laden foods to want to eat more. Clinical studies have found MSG to be linked to weight gain, obesity, liver inflammation, and overstimulation of the nervous system which leads to inflammation.
Some individuals are more sensitive than others to MSG-containing foods. ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ is the older term and ‘MSG Symptom Complex’ is the newer term used to describe the effects of consuming MSG. Symptoms such as numbness and tingling, headache, weakness, shortness of breath, and chest pain can appear soon after eating foods containing MSG. Yet even if you’re not one who notices symptoms like this, the health effects of MSG are cumulative.
To cause adverse reactions, glutamic acid must be processed or derived from fermented protein. The more processed the food, the more likely to contain MSG. Many processed foods (even some “organic” processed health foods, ie. veggie burgers) are made of processed proteins that contain free glutamic acids.
Ingredients that ALWAYS contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG):
Soy Protein Isolate—Whey Protein Isolate—Yeast Extract—Calcium Caseinate—Sodium Caseinate—Autolyzed Yeast—Textured Protein—Ajinomoto—Hydrolyzed anything (hydrolyzed protein…)—anything Glutamate (Calcium glutamate…)—there are more, these are most common.
Ingredients that OFTEN contain/produce processed free glutamic acid (MSG): Soy sauce—Malt Extract—Seasonings—Carrageenan—Bouillon—Most ‘Flavors/Flavorings’—Store-bought broth—anything Ultra-pasteurized—again, there are more, these are most common.
The best way to avoid MSG: Maintain a diet of whole foods…the good stuff…like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, grass-fed beef, raw nuts…yes, the good stuff…prepared simply without MSG-containing sauces, dressings, etc.
Little changes…like cutting down on the MSG (processed foods) in your diet…can make huge long-term positive differences in our health–You can do it!
Sana Keller, MS, RN, CNC, MH, HHP www.healthunlimited.biz
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