You’ve likely heard that MSG isn’t good for you – but did you have any idea how deadly it can be, or how hard it can be to avoid?
MSG has been linked to fibromyalgia, obesity, fatty liver, high insulin and blood sugar, metabolic syndrome, neurological and brain damage, and more.
And MSG is in nearly everything. It’s used in everything from canned soups, crackers, meats, and salad dressings, to baby food, infant formula, and your child’s school lunch.
In particular, MSG works by tricking your brain, courtesy unami, the fifth taste sensation. Umami recognizes the savory flavor of glutamate which is found in bacon, and of course synthetically found in MSG. In a nutshell, MSG tricks your brain into thinking you’re eating something as savory as bacon. Yikes!
In 1959, the U.S. FDA declared MSG was “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS). Since, MSG has been linked to something first called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.
Today Chinese Restaurant Syndrome has been more appropriately renamed, “MSG Symptom Complex,” which the FDA is well aware of and identifies as a “short-term reaction” to MSG. Despite this admission and acceptance the FDA still “generally recognizes it as safe.”
Part of the problem is that MSG is approximately 78% free glutamic acid. Free glutamic acid is the same neurotransmitter used by your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas and more, to initiate processes in your body.
Even the FDA admits:
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.
According to the FDA, even though they claim MSG is safe, side effects may include:
- Burning sensation
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Facial pressure or tightness
- Rapid heartbeat
Big food companies have caught on to consumers’ desire to avoid MSG – but rather than stop using it, they’ve simply found other ways to name it.
In some ways, they do so with the FDA’s help. The FDA requires 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.
Hidden MSG names include:
- Anything hydrolyzed
- Any hydrolyzed protein
- Anything :protein
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Calcium Caseinate
- Natrium Glutamate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Textured Protein
- Whey Protein Isolate
- Yeast Extract
- Yeast Food
- Yeast Nutrient
- Glutamate (E 620)
- Monosodium Glutamate (E 621)
- Monopotassium Glutamate (E 622)
- Calcium Glutamate (E 623)
- Monoammonium Glutamate (E 624)
- Magnesium Glutamate (E 625)
Names of ingredients that often contain or produce processed free glutamic acid
- Any flavors or flavoring
- Anything ultra-pasteurized
- Anything enzyme modified
- Anything containing enzymes
- Anything protein fortified
- Barley malt
- Bouillon and broth
- Carrageenan (E 407)
- Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
- Malt extract
- Pectin (E 440)
- Soy sauce
- Soy sauce extract
Your best bet is to buy local as much as possible and spend the time preparing wholesome honest food at home. If you live so far from a farmers’ market that buying locally is unrealistic, consider that your call to arms and plant a garden!
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