In the late 70’s or so, it was common for my family to eat take-out Chinese food and, it was so tasty! Immediately after, I would blow up like a balloon. Most everyone that I know had the same reaction. It became almost a joke. In those years MSG was synonymous with Chinese-take-out. Then, I quit eating Chinese food. Later, Chinese-take-out restaurants advertised, NO MSG! The word was out – don’t eat Chinese food unless it had no MSG added- so the owners of these restaurants had to change the way that they prepared their food.
One of the reasons that the food tasted so good was because of the MSG!
Now in 2015 I am armed with a little more knowledge of healthful eating, and would regularly frequent a salad bar at a local well known health grocery store thinking that it was a very healthy meal.
What! After eating a healthy mound of greens and toppings, I would gain 2-3 lbs.
After meditation on the matter, I put two and two together. Is there MSG in the salad bar? It makes sense – why do salad greens look so good sitting in those bars all day and night? Then of course I referred to Google….
This is what I found.
What is MSG?
MSG occurs naturally in many foods, such as tomatoes and cheeses. People around the world have eaten glutamate-rich foods throughout history. For example, a historical dish in the Asian community is a glutamate-rich seaweed broth. In 1908, a Japanese professor named Kikunae Ikeda was able to extract glutamate from this broth and determined that glutamate provided the savory taste to the soup. Professor Ikeda then filed a patent to produce MSG and commercial production started the following year.
Today, instead of extracting and crystallizing MSG from seaweed broth, MSG is produced by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. This fermentation process is similar to that used to make yogurt, vinegar and wine. MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate is a salt that is chemically converted into a flavour enhancer.
MSG is a food additive found in almost all commercially prepared and packaged food. It is commonly added to Chinese food, baby food, processed milk products, canned vegetables, soups, processed meats and fast foods.
Studies have found using MSG can cause brain damage, weight gain and liver damage.
Research has shown that MSG, found in most popular processed foods, causes weight gain and obesity in lab animals by damaging the appetite regulation center in the area of the brain known as the hypothalamus, causing leptin resistence. Leptin is the hormone that controls how much a person feels like eating. The fullness, gratification and satisfaction that come from having eaten is completely lost when MSG is consumed, leading to an urge to eat that never stops. A recent cross-sectional study in China supports the conclusion that what was seen in the animal studies also applies to people.
MSG operates on the brain, fooling it into thinking food tastes really great. MSG is an excitotoxin in the brain, meaning that it over stimulates the brain causing the production of excessive amounts of dopamine. This creates a drug-like rush that provides a brief sensation of well being. It is highly addictive, causing its consumers to keep coming back for more and end up overeating. In the process, brain cells are destroyed.
Studies published in PubMed reveal the influence MSG has on health. PubMed is comprised of biomedical literature from Medline, life science journals and online publications. Written in this Journal by Scientists:
“We submit that MSG treatment of mice induces obesity and diabetes with steatosis and steatohepatitis resembling human NAFLD and NASH with pre-neoplastic lesions.”
Understand what you just read – ‘NASH’ and ‘NAFLD’ are terms for non-alcoholic liver disease. Steatophepatitis is known as fatty liver disease characterized by inflammation of the liver.
In PubMed, the science suggests ‘these results take on considerable significance in light of the widespread usage of dietary MSG and we suggest that MSG should have its safety profile re-examined and be potentially withdrawn from the food chain.’
NAFLD is rapidly becoming the most common liver disease worldwide, particularly so in the Western world with an estimated prevalence of 20 – 30% of the population being affected.
The FDA considers MSG to be a “Salt” and therefore allows it to be added to processed foods.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that’s “generally recognized as safe,” but its use remains controversial. For this reason, when MSG is added to food, the FDA requires that it be listed on the label.
When people become aware of the dangers to their health and well being from the use of MSG, they no longer want to buy products that contain it. The producers of processed foods know that people don’t want to consume MSG but are unwilling to remove it from their products because without it, people wouldn’t want to buy them unless the quality was greatly improved, a task which would raise the cost of production. So they have gone to extremes to hide MSG in their products and this has been allowed by the FDA.
The term MSG is seldom seen listed on a food label, but MSG is most likely contained in the food, in a disguised form. If you do a quick google search you can also find out many of the eating establishments that use MSG and those who do not.
Other Names for MSG: (Note: this is not a complete list.)
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Textured Vegetable Protein
Any hydrolyzed protein
Soy Protein Concentrate
Soy Protein Isolate
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey Protein Isolate
In short you cannot get away from processed foods but you can be educated as to the contents of what you consume to progress into better health.