Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

This isn’t a new topic in the healthy living community, but it’s an important one so I feel the need to cover it here on Molly’s Suds Baby Steps. Monosodium Glutamate is food additive that has been under the spotlight for many years, and there is much research that proves it can have negative side effects when ingested.

MSG

I used to think “I’m safe from MSG because I don’t eat Chinese food”, but doing some research into the widely used additive proved me wrong. MSG is used as a flavor enhancer and can be found in thousands of products, here are some of the most common ones:

  • Hamburger Helper
  • Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix
  • Progresso soups
  • Campbell’s soups
  • Certain flavors of Wheat Thins (this one shocked me!)
  • Pringles chips (the seasoned varieties)
  • Doritos
  • Planters nuts
  • Fritos
  • Ramen noodles
  • McDonald’s
  • KFC
  • Burger King
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Taco Bell

While the FDA has labeled MSG as “generally recognized as safe”, they still require it be put on a label when added to a food. The symptoms that have been reported to the FDA as a result of ingesting MSG include headache, flushing, sweating, facial pressure, numbness and tingling in the neck and face, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, chest pain, nausea, and weakness (source). MSG is a controversial topic because some researchers have indicated that they can find no link between MSG and these symptoms, while others confirm that the symptoms are without a doubt connected to MSG. According to the FDA website:

“Over the years, FDA has received reports of symptoms such as headache and nausea after eating foods containing MSG. However, we were never able to confirm that the MSG caused the reported effects.

These adverse event reports helped trigger FDA to ask the independent scientific group Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to examine the safety of MSG in the 1990s. FASEB’s report concluded that MSG is safe. The FASEB report identified some short-term, transient, and generally mild symptoms, such as headache, numbness, flushing, tingling, palpitations, and drowsiness that may occur in some sensitive individuals who consume 3 grams or more of MSG without food. However, a typical serving of a food with added MSG contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG. Consuming more than 3 grams of MSG without food at one time is unlikely.”

In a contrasting report, Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon explains, “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.”

This article from Dr. Mercola’s site is a great resource for learning more about the harmful effects of MSG. In it, he explains that while “monosodium glutamate” has to be labeled on product ingredients, MSG can be hidden in many different ingredients, so you can ingest it without even realizing it. According to Dr. Mercola, the following ingredients ALWAYS contain MSG:

  • autolyzed yeast
  • glutamate
  • calcium caseinate
  • gelatin
  • glutamic acid
  • hydrolyzed protein
  • yeast food
  • yeast extract
  • textured protein
  • yeast nutrient

The following ingredients OFTEN contain MSG:

  • Flavors and flavorings
  • natural chicken flavoring
  • stock
  • anything enzyme modified
  • protease
  • soy sauce
  • carrageenan
  • corn starch
  • malt extract
  • maltodextrin
  • citric acid
  • natural pork flavoring
  • soy protein
  • pectin
  • powdered mil
  • barley malt

Is your brain suddenly racing through your canned and packaged foods in the pantry, these ingredients looking familiar? Did you not even realize you may be ingesting MSG because it has been hidden in one of the above? If you are experiencing any of the symptoms related to MSG consumption and haven’t been able to pinpoint why you are having them, try cutting out MSG in ALL forms to see if it eases them. People who suffer from migraines are especially warned by physicians to avoid MSG. Of course, talk to your doctor about your symptoms, too.

So how can you avoid MSG altogether? One way is to do a quick internet search before eating a food, if you have time. Www.msgtruth.org has compiled a massive list of specific foods that should be avoided because they contain MSG. Another way is to simply (or not so simply sometimes) eat clean and all-natural. This means cooking from whole vegetables, making each meal from scratch and knowing that the ingredients you are 100% safe and natural. If you are buying something packaged, it can be so hard to tell if it contains preservatives and flavor enhancers like MSG because it can be hidden behind so many different names. Make sure in addition to your food labels you are reading your beauty product labels! If your shampoo contains the words “hydrolyzed”, “proten”, or “amino acids”, it might contain MSG.

Finally, the easiest way to avoid MSG is to do research and increase your knowledge about what certain foods contain it naturally (tomatoes, grapes, potatoes, mushrooms), and where it may be added in. http://www.truthinlabeling.org has compiled a great list of the many names MSG goes by. Check it out, get informed, and cut out the MSG!

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By Courtney Perry

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5 thoughts on “Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

  1. Are you are saying organic tomatoes, potatoes, grapes and mushrooms have MSG in them and should be avoided?

    • Hi Karrie,
      While the organic fruits and vegetables listed of course don’t have MSG injected into them, they do contain a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid called glutamic acid. In fact, hundreds of foods, basically every protein, contain glutamic acid. Glutamic acid in it’s salt form is called monosodium glutamate, or MSG.

      Basically, MSG is just glutamic acid that has been created outside the human body, synthetically. It is safe to eat foods containing glutamic acid, but it is good to know which foods it exists in for those who are extremely sensitive to the compound. So no, don’t avoid them. Keep eating those organic fruits and veggies!!

  2. Pingback: MSG and Farm-Raised Fish……in my hood? (Depression and Poverty) | Naturally Happy

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