MSG is a widely used food additives. It is often present in processed foods although it is frequently not clearly labeled.
"In the latest research ... [scientists] followed more than 10,000 adults in China for about 5.5 years on average. The researchers measured MSG intake directly by before-and-after weighing of products, such as bottles of soy sauce, to see how much people ate ... Men and women who ate the most MSG (a median of 5 grams a day) were about 30 percent more likely to become overweight by the end of the study".
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer, is most often associated with Chinese food, but it's actually in countless processed food products ranging from frozen dinners and salad dressing to snack chips and meats. As Ka He, lead author of this latest study, told Reuters,
"Everybody eats it." This could spell trouble for many Americans, as aside from impacting your brain and nervous system, as I'll discuss below, it may also be making you fat.
You're More Likely to be Overweight if You Eat a Lot of MSG
After analyzing MSG intake and weight gain among more than 10,000 Chinese adults, researchers found that those who ate the most MSG (about 5 grams a day) were about 30 percent more likely to become overweight than those who ate the least (less than a half-gram a day).
The researchers speculated that the hormone leptin may be involved in the weight gain, as those who consumed more MSG also produced more leptin. They noted that MSG consumption may cause leptin resistance. The way your body stores fat is a highly regulated process that is controlled, primarily, by leptin. If you gain excess weight, the extra fat produces extra leptin that should alert your brain that your body is storing too much fat and needs to not only stop storing anymore, but also burn off the excess.
To do this, signals are sent to your brain to stop being hungry and to stop eating.
It is very important that your brain is able to accurately "hear" the messages leptin sends it, as otherwise you will continue to feel hungry and will likely continue to eat and store more fat. Leptin resistance occurs when your body is unable to properly hear leptin's signals, which means your body can no longer hear the messages telling it to stop eating and burn fat -- so it remains hungry and stores more fat.
This will not only contribute to your weight gain, but also increase your risk of many chronic illnesses, as leptin plays a significant, if not primary, role in heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, reproductive disorders, and perhaps the rate of aging itself. How does this all happen? By overexposure to high levels of the hormone, which is triggered by the typical American diet full of sugar, refined grains, and processed foods -- including those that contain MSG.
Animal studies have also shown that dietary MSG induces markers of insulin resistance, while prior research by Ka He and colleagues found the additive may increase your likelihood of being overweight by three-fold.
MSG May Kill Your Brain Cells
Dr. Russell Blaylock, a retired board-certified neurosurgeon and author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, explains that MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees -- and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and more.
Part of the problem is that free glutamic acid (MSG is approximately 78 percent 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.
Although the FDA continues to claim that consuming MSG in food does not cause these ill effects, many other experts say otherwise.
According to Dr. Blaylock, numerous glutamate receptors have been found both within your heart's electrical conduction system and the heart muscle itself. This can be damaging to your heart, and may even explain the sudden deaths sometimes seen among young athletes. He says:
"When an excess of food-borne excitotoxins, such as MSG, hydrolyzed protein soy protein isolate and concentrate, natural flavoring, sodium caseinate and aspartate from aspartame, are consumed, these glutamate receptors are over-stimulated, producing cardiac arrhythmias. When magnesium stores are low, as we see in athletes, the glutamate receptors are so sensitive that even low levels of these excitotoxins can result in cardiac arrhythmias and death."
Eye damage, fatigue, disorientation and depression have all been linked to MSG consumption, and that's not even including the short-term reactions known as MSG Symptom Complex that can occur in certain groups of people, namely those who have eaten "large doses" of MSG or who have asthma. Symptoms related to MSG Symptom Complex may include:
Tingling and numbness Burning sensation Facial pressure or tightness Chest pain or difficulty breathing Headache Nausea Rapid heartbeat Drowsiness Weakness
Why is MSG Added to Foods in the First Place?
It's a misconception that MSG is a flavor or "meat tenderizer." In reality, MSG has very little taste at all, yet when you eat 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.
Umami is the taste of glutamate, which is a savory flavor found in many Japanese foods, bacon and also in the toxic food additive MSG. It is because of umami that foods with MSG taste heartier, more robust and generally better to a lot of people than foods without it.
The ingredient didn't become widespread in the United States until after World War II, when the U.S. military realized Japanese rations were much tastier than the U.S. versions because of MSG.
How to Identify MSG on Food Labels
Nowadays it's exceedingly difficult to determine if a food contains MSG, even though it's required by the FDA that food manufacturers list the ingredient "monosodium glutamate" on food labels. This is because they do not have to label ingredients that contain free glutamic acid, even though it's the main component of MSG.
The easiest way to avoid MSG is to simply avoid processed foods, fast foods, and restaurant food, its main hideouts. But in the event you need to check a label, here's an MSG "cheat sheet" that can help you identify it.
These ingredients contain MSG:
Autolyzed Yeast Calcium Caseinate Yeast Food Glutamate Glutamic Acid Hydrolyzed Protein Monopotassium Glutamate Monosodium Glutamate Sodium Caseinate Textured Protein Yeast Extract Yeast Nutrient
These ingredients can OFTEN contain MSG or create MSG during processing:
Flavors and Flavorings Seasonings Natural Flavors and Flavorings Natural Pork Flavoring Natural Beef Flavoring Natural Chicken Flavoring Soy Sauce Soy Protein Isolate Soy Protein Bouillon Stock Broth Malt Extract Malt Flavoring Barley Malt Anything Enzyme Modified Carrageenan Maltodextrin Pectin Enzymes Protease Corn Starch Citric Acid Powdered Milk Anything Protein Fortified Anything Ultra-Pasteurized Gelatin
If you'd like to avoid eating MSG, but believe it's next to impossible to eat nowadays without processed foods, the tips in this article will help you whip up a healthful meal from scratch in the same amount of time it would have taken you to drive down the street to pick up fast food.
Of course, you'll be far more satisfied when you eat your home-cooked meal, both physically and mentally, and the great flavor you'll enjoy will come from its fresh ingredients and natural seasonings -- not a chemical flavor "enhancer" like MSG.