Did you know that a substance added to the foods you may be eating every day has been connected to a multitude of physical ailments, including everything from obesity to Alzheimer’s? And here’s the worst part: The food industry has been aware of this issue for decades yet uses this substance anyway. The troubling ingredient is monosodium glutamate. Read on to learn more about the hidden poison, commonly known as MSG, which may be lurking in your next meal.
What is MSG?
MSG, a salt form of a non-essential amino acid, is a flavor enhancer and common food additive. While many people exclusively associate MSG with Chinese takeout and salty processed meats, the truth is that MSG is contained in processed foods we eat every day, including salad dressing, barbecue sauce, bouillon cubes and canned soups and vegetables. It’s also an additive in many infant formulas and baby and children’s foods.
In short, MSG tricks the taste buds and brain into thinking that food tastes delicious. An excitotoxin, MSG works by triggering the brain to produce excess quantities of the feel-good drug dopamine. This allows food manufacturers to cut back on quality in order to increase their profits.
Unfortunately, the rush of good feelings caused by MSG doesn’t last, but the consequences do. MSG doesn’t just hook us by making food taste better. It is actually physically addictive, which keeps consumers coming back again and again. This not only leads to overeating but also wreaks havoc on the body’s comprehensive wellness.
Side Effects Explained
We’ve all heard of MSG headaches and nausea; this is often attributed to “MSG sensitivity.” Unfortunately, the problem goes far beyond that.
MSG has been linked to weight gain and even obesity by researchers. And it’s not just because MSG makes people want to consume more. In fact, groups of participants in one research study were restricted to the same caloric intake and physical activity, yet those who ate foods containing MSG were nearly three times more likely to be overweight than their non-MSG ingesting peers. (1)
Researchers have also connected MSG to liver and kidney damage as well as increased blood pressure. (2) (3) Furthermore, excitotoxins have been linked to brain damage, leading to a host of neurological diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, lupus and many others. (4)
How to Avoid MSG
If you regularly rely on the “No MSG” labels on your food, it’s still likely that you are eating foods containing MSG. How? Because the FDA’s and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s regulations only require that MSG be disclosed when it’s added as a single ingredient. In other words, if MSG is added on its own, it must be listed on food labels. Otherwise, it may be lurking in your food under one of many seemingly innocuous names. The following items are likely to contain MSG (5):
- yeast food, autolyzed or hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, textured protein (including TVP [textured vegetable protein])
- hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, plant protein extract, hydrolyzed plant protein
- soy protein (concentrate and isolate)
- dough conditioners
- malt (flavoring and extract)
- malted barley
- sodium caseinate
- calcium caseinate
- seasoning, spices
- flavoring of any kind (may be listed as “natural flavors” or “natural flavoring”)
- whey protein concentrate
- hydrolyzed oat flour
- bouillon, stock, broth
And don’t assume that it’s safe just because it came from the local health food store. Many “natural” and “organic” products also contain MSG.
One simple way to avoid consuming MSG is to buy whole foods and prepare them yourself. However, this isn’t always possible. The best defense against MSG is information. By being vigilant about checking food labels, knowing what to look for and asking the right questions, you can avoid ingesting this known toxin and enjoy a healthier life.