My apologies this article is rather lengthy. I have tried to cull it down as much as I could and “keep it simple” but at the same time I didn’t want to leave out any information which may be vital to you.
So….please do read on … 🙂
What is MSG?
MSG OR monosodium glutamate OR flavour enhancer 621 OR salt of glutamate, was “discovered” in 1908 by a Japanese man called Kikunae Ikeda. He identified the natural flavour enhancing property of seaweed (Laminaria japonica) and then used it as a basis to form MSG.
Chemically speaking, it is made up of 78% free glutamic acid, 21% sodium and 1% contaminants.
But why does everyone use it and why has it become so popular?
This is quite interesting, I found. So your tongue has FIVE basic tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and….umami!!! Bet you didn’t know that! Well, I didn’t know that.
Umami is the taste of glutamates (naturally occurring ones, for example, are: meat, fish, dairy products and some vegetables), so the savoury taste, to put it simply.
What MSG does here is, it TRICKS your tongue (through the umami) to think that the food you are eating is extra super tasty.
So when you are eating foods that contain glutamates naturally, you can’t really taste it; the glutamates need to be in “free form” to achieve that taste sensation and that is what MSG does.
Why do they put it in food?
As I mentioned above, it tricks our tongue into thinking the food we are eating is tastier, fresher, proteinier (it’s a new word, I just made it up) and to do this it uses the same neurotransmitter in your brain that is also in charge of your ears, eyes, nervous system and pancreas.
Ergo, MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Too much insulin, not enough carbs, results in an insulin flood. What does this mean? You eat the MSG laced food, your blood sugar drops and you are hungry again in no time. You know that feeling when you finish a packet of chips and you are quite sad because really you could eat another packet? So you BUY MORE.
When you are eating foods with MSG in them, you can’t actually taste whether what you are eating is real or not. Let’s use a sausage roll for an example. Is it 20% meat or 80% meat? You don’t know cause it ALL tastes like meat. Less real meat, MORE PROFIT.
It’s used in tinned foods to make them taste less “tinny”. It’s used in frozen dinners to make them smell and taste fresher.
Also, because MSG has lower sodium content than table salt, it can be used instead of salt in a product and thus be labelled “low sodium” or “salt reduced”.
Why is it bad?
It is bad, bad, bad, BAD because….. it has been linked to, and can trigger the following reactions:
- Numbness/tingling/burning in the face, neck and other areas
- Muscle tightness
- Asthma attacks
- Weight gain/obesity
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Itchy skin
- Hyperactivity in children
- Brain tumours
- Throat tightness
- Tongue swelling
- Fainting and drowsiness
- Death of brain cells
Reactions can occur anywhere from 2-8 hours later, so it’s not necessarily immediate, which is why some people may be unaware they are intolerant.
Approximately 30% of the population (it’s probably more but I’m trying to be conservative) is affected by MSG in one form or another.
Another unfortunate thing about MSG is that the longer we consume it, the more used we become to the artificial taste so that we are no longer able to enjoy the taste of “real food”.
MSG (as well as a couple of other chemicals) is an “excitotoxin”. This means that it is a chemical transmitter allowing brain cells to talk to each other. They excite your brain cells to death! I know this is a radical concept but a Dr Blaylock wrote a book about it, it’s called: “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills”. Rather appropriate, I thought.
And as with most chemicals and nasties, our kids are the ones most at risk. Their blood brain barrier is not fully developed to protect them as it is in us adults. And they put it in baby formula and vaccines, so it doesn’t really get much worse than that really.
Where is it found?
The list of where MSG lurks is extensive, so extensive, it is scary.
Short version is when you go out to eat, you have no control because restaurants etc are not required to tell you about it as it is classed as a SAFE additive. Same goes for the ever so convenient take away food.
When you go to the supermarket, look at the ingredient list on the back and scan for things like: MSG, flavour enhancers 620 to 625 as well as 627, 631 and 635.
You are most likely to find it in foods you consume every day, such as: spreads, crackers, corn chips, potato chips, noodles, stock, sauces, hard cheeses, canned foods, frozen dinners, dressings, meats, baby food, infant formula and the list goes on.
Do this little exercise. Pick up the two most known brands of rice crackers. One will have about twenty ingredients. The other one will say: rice, water, salt.
What is even scarier is that since MSG has got such a bad reputation over the years, the companies are now using different sources of glutamate to achieve the same result. Thing is, when chemically compared they are all exactly the same as MSG. It just means the things are more confusing for us because we have to look out for more things on our labels.
They are: vegetable, corn, yeast or soy protein extracts.
It is also disguised in other ingredients so that the product can be called MSG free: yeast extract, gelatin, hydrolysed protein, sodium caseinate, yeast nutrient, yeast food, textured protein, monopotassium glutamate, glutamic acid, glutamate, calcium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed animal protein, textured vegetable protein, natural flavour.
In a nutshell, eat more clean and less processed foods to minimize the risk.
Personally, I have always been aware of MSG and have seen what it can do to people first hand, and have also seen those people make a “miraculous” recovery once they stopped consuming MSG. What I wasn’t aware of, was the lengths companies would go to, to hide it. Which begs another question.
If all these big companies (sorry, I can’t name names) and government organisations are declaring MSG as a “safe additive” then WHY are the manufacturers going through such great lengths to hide it?????