MSG: A Silent Killer?
Over the last several years, there have been numerous studies about how harmful monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is to the human body. Recent news has only gotten worse. It is now thought that MSG could be worse than alcohol, nicotine and drugs.
MSG is found in countless foods in your pantry, grocery store, restaurants, school cafeterias and more. You can even find this “poison” in baby formulas and baby food.
Recent studies have also found that MSG is one of the leading causes of obesity in the United States. MSG sets off certain systems inside your body to produce visceral fat, the most dangerous kind, which surrounds your organs and increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, insomnia, type 2 diabetes and more.
So, What Exactly is MSG?
It was first identified as a flavor enhancer in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda of Japan, who found that soup stocks made from seaweed contained high levels of the substance. His discovery led to the commercial production of MSG from seaweed. It is now produced using a bacterial fermentation process with starch or molasses as carbon sources and ammonium salts as nitrogen sources.
Chemically speaking, MSG is approximately 78% free glutamic acid, 21% sodium and up to 1% contaminants. Although many people use MSG in order to enhance the flavor of their food, this is a misconception. MSG has very little taste at all. When you use MSG, you think the food you’re eating has more protein and tastes better. It does this by tricking your tongue, using a little-known fifth basic taste: umami.
The ingredient didn’t become widespread in the United States until after World War Il, when the U.S. military realized Japanese rations were much tastier than the U.S. versions because of MSG. In 1959, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeled MSG as “Generally Recognized as Safe,” and it has been that way ever since.
But, it said a lot when just 10 years later a condition known as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” was created, describing the many side effects from numbness and heart palpitations people experienced after consuming MSG.
Why is MSG so Dangerous?
There are a couple of reasons why MSG is one of the worst food additives on the market. According to Russell Blaylock, M.D., author of the highly recommended Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills, MSG is an excitotoxin, which means that it overexcites your cells to the point of damage, acting as a poison. This can cause brain damage to varying degrees, trigger or worsen learning disabilities, lead to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more, and even result in death.
Part of the problem also is that free glutamic acid is the same neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas and other organs use to initiate certain processes in your body. Abnormal function of glutamate receptors has been linked with certain neurological diseases, such Huntington’s chorea. Injections of glutamate in laboratory animals have resulted in damage to the nerve cells of the brain.
Adverse reactions to MSG include: numbness, burning sensation, tingling, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain or difficulty breathing, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness and weakness.
How do you Avoid MSG?
It’s very difficult to avoid this toxic ingredient. Food manufacturers try their best to hide the fact that they use MSG in their processed foods. They hide it by using other names. The best way to avoid using MSG is not eating processed foods.
If foods are processed, chances are it contains MSG (or one of its ingredients). So, if you stick to whole, fresh foods, you’ll avoid this toxin.
The other place where you can watch out for MSG is restaurants. You can ask your server which menu items are MSGfree and request that no MSG be added to your meal.
But, of course the only way you can guarantee you’re not consuming this poison is by preparing food in your own kitchen.