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MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)


What is MSG?

Monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, is a sodium salt of the naturally occurring non essential amino acid, glutamic acid. It is used as a food additive and is commonly marketed as a flavor enhancer. Trade names of monosodium glutamate include Ajinomoto, Vetsin, and Accent. It was once predominantly made from wheat gluten, but is now mostly made from bacterial fermentation. Although traditional Asian cuisine had often used seaweed extract, which contains high concentrations of glutamic acid, it was not until 1907 that MSG was isolated by Kikanae Ikeda.


Commercialization of MSG

The Ajinomoto company was formed to manufacture and market MSG in Japan; the name 'Aji no moto' translates to "essence of taste". It was introduced to the United States in 1947 as Ac'cent flavor enhancer.

Modern commercial MSG is produced by fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane, or molasses. MSG is used commercially as a flavor enhancer. Although once associated with foods in Chinese restaurants, MSG is now used by most fast food chains and in many foodstuffs, particularly processed foods.

Examples include:

  • Prepared stocks often known as stock cubes or bouillon cubes.
  • Condiments such as barbeque sauce and salad dressings.
  • Canned, frozen, or dried prepared food
  • Common snack foods such as flavored jerky, flavored potato chips and flavored tortilla chips.
  • Seasoning mixtures

Fermented products such as soy sauce, steak sauce, and Worcestershire sauce have levels of glutamate similar to foods with added MSG.


Why do food companies add MSG to foods?

There are several reasons:

  • MSG tricks your tongue into making you think a certain food is high in protein and thus nutritious.  It is not a "meat tenderizer".  It is not a "preservative".  The food industry is trying to confuse the issue by focusing on the "fifth" taste sense they call umami.  Free glutamic acid is detected by the taste buds as a simple way to signal the presence of protein in a food, just as there are fat receptors to detect fats and receptors that sense carbohydrate or sweet flavors.  The purpose is to help us discern real food from inedible matter.  It changes your perception of not simply taste but the nutritious qualities of what you put into your mouth.  However, and here is the main problem with free glutamic acid - It is the very same neurotransmitter that your brain and many organs including your ears, eyes, nervous system and pancreas in your body use to initiate certain processes in your body. 

  • MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin.  So many diets these days are concerned about the Glycemic Index of foods and yet none of them address the fact that MSG and free glutamic acid stimulate the pancreas to release insulin when there doesn't even have to be carbohydrates in the food for that insulin to act on.  The food industry has found their own "anti-appetite suppressant".  It's a convenient way to keep consumers coming back for more.  The blood sugar drops because of the insulin flood.  And you are hungry an hour later.  Sound familiar? 

  • The body changes excess glutamate to GABA.   GABA may be addictive.  It is calming and affects the same receptors in the brain as valium. 

  • Cost.  The illusion created by adding MSG to a food product enables the food processor to add LESS real food.  The illusion of more protein in a food allows the food producer to put LESS protein in it.  The consumer perceives the product - say chicken soup - to have more chicken in it than is actually there.  Example:  A well-known brand of dehydrated chicken noodle soup.  Is that chicken in there, or a piece of confetti?

Health Concerns

A report from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) compiled in 1995 on behalf of the FDA concluded that MSG was safe for most people when "eaten at customary levels". What is a customary level? Just what does that mean? View the following videos and decide for yourself. Is this something you want to place in your body to achieve optimum health?








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