MSG stands for Mono-sodium Glutamate. MSG was first isolated from kombu seaweed in Japan as flavour enhancer about 100 years ago.
Glutamate is derived from the reaction of glutamic acid with sodium. Glutamate is naturally occurring in seaweeds but also many foods like meat, fish, dairy products, soy, tomatoes, mushrooms, nuts, seeds and grains. Glutamate is one of the 20 amino acids that serve as building blocks of protein. It is involved in many metabolic processes. It is required in brain functions like learning, memory, motor coordination and others. It is an excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.
Those who believe MSG is harmless argues that it is naturally occurring substance in the body. Our body is said to produce about 40 grams of it everyday. However precisely because it is such an essential neurotransmitter and serves so many functions in the body, it has to be present in the right concentrations in the right places for the right time. Both too much and too little glutamate can cause negative effects. That is why glutamate can be both essential and highly toxic at the same time.
Intake of MSG in our modern diet disrupts the natural balance of glutamate in our body.
Potential harm of MSG
Those who has what has now come to be called “MSG Syndrome” suffer any number of these reactions after ingesting MSG:
- Dryness of mouth
- Joint pain
- Facial pressure or tightness
- Numbness, tingling or burning especially in face and neck
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
While the above reactions are usually short-lived and non life-threatening, incremental and synergistic effect of MSG with other toxins have not been thoroughly studied. And there are other more serious reported negative effects of MSG and these include:
- Asthmatic attacks
- Arrythmia and increased risk of heart diseases
- Panic attacks
Not to say MSG can make you FAT too…
While going through scientific journals for his book, author of the Slow Poisoning of America John Erb made a shocking discovery: he found that scientists over the world have used MSG to make normal mice and rats obese in a short period of time for their research purpose. (They called these ‘MSG-Treated Rats.’) They do this because MSG triples the amount of insulin the pancreas creates, causing rats to become obese.
Where do you find MSG?
Walk in a regular household, you will find MSG in our everyday food – canned soup, prepared stocks, potato chips, jerky, catchup sauce, soya sauce, prepared meals, salad dressings, sausages, and so on. It is in practically all processed foods.
It is everywhere when you eat out too – all fast food chains use it, even chain coffee shops. Yes all the big names you can think of, use it. (You still think MSG is only used in Chinese restaurants?)
Why is MSG used?
Food manufacturers have not hidden the fact that they use it for its addictive effect. It tricks your brain into wanting more of it because it tastes good (at least at first contact with your mouth). The use of MSG has been increasing over the years.
Even though the harmful effects of MSG has been known for decades, you won’t hear it on TV news. The cost of offending the advertisers is too dear!
Due to the smaller size of children, tolerance of MSG is much lower as it is less diluted in the smaller body. Besides, as MSG is a neurotoxin you really do not want a developing brain to be at risk, as permanent damage can result. No parent would want their child to be a test case…
For adults, eating out three times a day will quite easily push intake of MSG over accepted level (6 gram according to WHO). A typical eat-out meal exceeds 2 gram of MSG. Or one eat-out meal, with one instant noodle at home and some potato chips or jerky has a similar effect. (How many people we know do this daily?)
The Many Guises of MSG:
Food sellers, restaurant and food store owners and staff may knowingly or unknowingly be hiding the truth from you as MSG comes in so many different guises. There are about twenty-five names other than MSG (Monosodium Glutamate):
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
- Hydrolyzed Protein
- Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
- Natural Meat Tenderizer
- Plant Protein Extract
- Sodium Caseinate
- Calcium Caseinate
- Yeast Extract
- Textured Protein
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Other ingredients that may contain MSG:
- Malt extract
- Natural Flavouring
- Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring
- Soy Protein Concentrate
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Whey Protein Concentrate
- Protease enzymes
How do we avoid MSG or reverse its damage?
- Reduce eating out
- Make your demand heard
- Learn to read labels
- Drink water to flush out the MSG after ingesting it
- Reduce processed foods from your diet and increase the use of fresh wholefoods
Many natural foods are very flavourful. Celery is naturally savoury. Seaweeds and mushrooms add natural flavour to your food and are what MSG comes from. When your body is rid of MSG residues you will crave of it less and prefer “real” foods. The same goes for other food additives and substances harmful to your body that you ingest in your diet. That is why a daily detox regime is essential for health and a proper detox helps to “reset” your palette, among other things.
All in all. Be informed, make informed choices and share this information. A little MSG may not kill you (in most cases at least!). Enjoy your food (as that would make your immunity stronger!) and know your limits!