I was recently asked whether or not monosodium glutamate (MSG) was bad for us and whether or not the warnings are all hype.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with MSG, it is used to enhance the flavor in foods and is most commonly known to be added in Chinese foods.
So is it bad?
In short, yes.
But what’s even worse, is the fact that it’s added in THOUSANDS of food products that you may not even be aware of!
Will you believe me if I tell you that it’s even added in infant formulas and baby food?
I was so shocked when I found out and felt compelled to let you all know what brands are using this toxic poison, why it’s undisclosed information, and ultimately how to avoid it.
Why Is MSG Bad?
MSG is basically a chemical flavor enhancer. In school, we are taught about the four basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, and bitter.
Well there’s also a fifth taste being promoted by scientists called umami.
It’s the taste of glutamate, which is a savory flavor that is included in MSG.
That’s why foods containing MSG generally taste heartier and more robust.
It activates your taste buds making them more receptive to flavor.
However, similar to the artificial sweetener aspartame, the most controversial problem with MSG is that it is an excitotoxin, which means that it overexcites your nervous system to the point of damaging cells.
According to the Weston Price Foundation, it is host to a number of health consequences with data to back it up:
- Brain lesions and subsequent endocrine disorders
- Adverse reactions like skin rash, flushing, migraines, headaches
- Life threatening conditions like obesity, diabetes, asthma, heart irregularities, seizures, and mood disorders.
This is especially a concern for babies and children who are MUCH more sensitive to the toxic effects of this chemical.
If your baby is formula fed, then be aware of MSG in infant formula.
Here is an interesting study done on five common brands of formula to check whether or not they contained MSG.
If this is a concern for you, you can read the study here.
Note, this study was conducted in 2004, and many baby food manufacturers have since then removed MSG from their products, so do check the ingredients yourself.
MSG is also a probable contributor to the obesity epidemic as it is known to stimulate your appetite.
Have you ever noticed how quickly your hunger returns after eating Chinese food? That would be the effect of MSG.
I love Chinese food and I’m not at all insinuating that all Chinese restaurants use MSG, but this has been my personal experience and my professional opinion would be to question it.
Where is it Hidden?
Aside from its side effects, the biggest problem is the lack of labeling and disclosure of MSG in food products.
Nut allergies are very common and so manufacturers will often place warning labels on their products.
Many people are unknowingly sensitive to MSG, so why is it not also being disclosed on food labels?
Well it is – just not as monosodium glutatmate!
It is hidden under MANY other ingredient names such as:
- Yeast Extract
- Malted Barley
- Rice Syrup or Brown Rice Syrup
- Natural Flavor or Artificial Flavor
By food industry definition, all MSG is “naturally occurring”.
The word “natural” however doesn’t mean that it is safe. It only means that the ingredient started out in nature.
And if the word “organic” precedes any of these ingredients, it doesn’t make it any healthier or safer for you either.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. MSG is everywhere and in almost every processed foods at the supermarket, fast food chains, and school cafeterias.
To get a complete list of foods and products containing MSG, visit TruthInLabeling.org or click here for the printable list of ingredients.
Be an informed consumer and begin checking the listed ingredients in products that you regularly eat.
Why Was MSG Created?
A biotech company called Senoymx creates chemical flavor enhancers for the food and beverage industry to manipulate taste buds into sensing a flavor when a flavor is really not there.
Why? To reduce the use of sugar, salt, and MSG in processed foods.
While this may seem like good news for our health, just keep in mind that they are being replaced with synthetic chemicals, and more and more companies are using them to reduce the cost of their ingredients and make health claims such as “reduced sugar”, “less sodium” or “MSG-free”.
Here’s another interesting piece of information.
Since these flavor enhancers are needed in such small amounts (less than one part per million), they do not have to go through the lengthy FDA approval process that typical food additives have to undergo.
Instead, it only has to be classified as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association.
MSG was passed in under 18 months, with only a 3-month safety study done on rats. Is that scary or what?
Here is a list of companies that have entered into collaborations with Senomyx:
- Ajinomoto Co (makers of meat glue and aspartame)
- Campbell Soup
- Coca-Cola Company
- Firmenich (a Swiss perfume and flavoring company)
According to Senomyx’s website, Nestle is currently marketing products that contain one of Senomyx’s Savory Flavors in the Pacific Rim, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.
Similarly, Ajinomoto Co, Inc., is currently introducing products that contain a Senomyx flavor ingredient in Asia, North America, and an emerging market with large growth potential.
The Bottom Line
After discovering how many food products contain MSG, you can’t help but say “what is there left to eat”?
Well, as I’ve mentioned many times before, eat real food and limit the amount of processed and packaged foods.
Eat foods that nature intended for us to eat; foods that come from a natural source – not a lab.
As always, be an informed consumer and question the ingredients. If you can’t read it – chances are you shouldn’t eat it!
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