Why is MSG bad and what other names is it hidden under?
I was cleaning out my dresser and came across my research of MSG and realized that I have never touched on the subject of MSG.
We all have heard that MSG is bad, but how many of us know:
- What is the difference between glutamate and MSG?
- What does it do to our brains?
- Why food manufacturers use it?
- What other sneaky names can it be hidden under?
What is the difference between glutamate and MSG?
Glutamate (not MSG) is found naturally in many things, including food like chicken, eggs, peas and corn. However, most glutamate found in unprocessed foods are “bound” to a protein. This means that the body had to digest and “unbind” it, making it virtually harmless.
Glutamate is also the most abundant excitatory (meaning it increases action) neurotransmitter in our nervous system. It performs numerous functions, one interesting one is its key role in forming our children’s’ brains.
The brain undergoes its greatest growth in the last trimester of pregnancy and the first two years of life. It “over produces” connections, and at precise times and amounts (still unknown to us today) our natural glutamate acts as a tree trimmer and destroys unnecessary circuits and synapses. Studies in rats have shown that feeding pregnant rats MSG can influence their offspring’s brain neurotransmitters, likely by “trimming” too much. The major learning and memory neurotransmitter was reduced by 80%, explaining why the MSG offspring preformed much worse on complex tasks.
So, while glutamate is naturally found in our body, it doesn’t mean MSG is harmless. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a salt of the amino acid called Glutamic Acid (Glutamate). It is produced by “freeing” glutamate from the protein it is connected to in a cooking process. Since it is unbound, MSG is immediately absorbed in our bloodstream, spiking our glutamate levels, and potentially causing side effects such as headaches, irritability, and anger.
Can you imagine, knowing that a child’s brain is 4 times more sensitive to MSG than an adult brain, feeding this to your child?
What does it do to our brains?
In addition to what I have touched on above, MSG can cause a whole host of other problems. Since there are glutamate receptors all over the body, including the brain, heart, lungs and the pancreas, there are many ways to be effected. For example, by affecting hypothalamus (the part of the brain that regulates food intake), MSG can lead to obesity. By affecting neural pathways from the brain to joints or muscles, MSG can be implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer’s fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Researchers have found many cancers have glutamate receptors, suggesting they are aggravated by glutamate. The cancers of this type include several brain cancers, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
The bottom line is that MSG isn’t good for any of us.
So, why, then, do manufacturers use it?
If we know that MSG can be harmful, why don’t manufacturers just use salt? Well, MSG does more than add a salty taste. MSG tricks our tongue into thinking something contains protein, and thus is nutritious. So, it literally changes your perception of the nutritional qualities of what you put into your mouth.
The food industry also benefits from MSG’s hunger side effect. You see, MSG stimulates the pancreas to release insulin even when there are no carbohydrates to process. The blood sugar drops because of the insulin so you are hungry an hour later. Sound familiar? It’s a convenient way to keep consumers coming back for more.
Cost, of course, is always an important factor. When food producers put MSG in a product, it can actually save money by using less REAL protein. Which is why chicken noodle soup can get away with 3-4 micorbits of chicken.
What other names is MSG hidden under?
- Monopotassium glutamate
- Calcium glutamate
- Monoammonium glutamate
- Magnesium glutamate
- Natrium glutamate
- Yeast extract
- Anything “hydrolyzed”
- Any “hydrolyzed protein”
- Calcium Caseinate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Yeast food
- Yeast nutrient
- Autolyzed yeast
- Textured protein
How do you avoid MSG?
Avoid processed foods as much as you can. Avoid flavored chips and opt for plain potato or tortilla chips. Make your own soups or choose organic brands that do not use MSG. Really, the more you cook at home, the less you have to worry! Most food “evils” all come back to manufactured foods. You never can go wrong with nature!