What is MSG and Why is it Bad for Your Health? What You Need To Know Now
There is much controversy over the food additive known as monosodium glutamate (MSG). Many health conscious consumers today are asking the question “what is MSG?” There are two types of MSG, natural and processed. Natural MSG is otherwise known as L-glutamic acid, a harmless amino acid which comes from plants and animals. It is harmless when consumed in it's natural form because it is bound with proteins which allow for slow and healthy assimilation by the body.
Processed MSG is glutamic acid which has been unbound by various processes which are referred to as modified, texturized, autolyzed, fermented and hydrolyzed. It is refined into a fine, white crystal that looks like sugar. It is then mixed with salt and used as a flavor enhancer.
Next to salt and pepper it is the most commonly used flavor enhancer today. MSG works by making your brain believe the food you are eating tastes good. This allows manufacturers to save money by using poor quality, nutrient deficient products.
Glutamate is naturally present as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It job is to regulate the nervous system and in proper quantities, it is needed for normal brain and organ function. The great concern among health experts is that the consumption of processed MSG overstimulates brain cells and glutamate receptors throughout the body.
Food manufacturers argue that processed MSG goes through the same metabolic process as glutamates (natural MSG) from food and therefore is harmless. The difference is that the glutamate naturally occurring in foods are bound to proteins which allows for slow digestion. Processed MSG glutamates are unbound and are able to quickly spike blood levels with glutamate.
When blood levels of glutamate are high, it can overstimulate brain neurons which eventually lead to psychological and physical problems. Some individual are more sensitive to the effects of MSG because of chronic stress, disease or age. Such individuals may experience an immediate reaction even with a lose dose of MSG. Symptoms include a mimic of a stroke or heart attack, seizures, a migraine headache, an asthma attack or a stuffy nose.
Others who do not experience immediate reactions but have consumed large amounts of MSG on a regular basis have been found to eventually experience permanent brain damage. Most immediate reactions to MSG have been associated with oriental food, but many western foods such as fried chicken and hamburgers have also caused reactions. A high enough dose of MSG will cause anybody to experience an immediate reaction.
Extensive research has shown that the increased level of learning disability and behavior problems in schools today has been associated with MSG. Most processed foods contain MSG, especially those labeled healthy low fat. It can be difficult to identify MSG in many of these foods because manufacturers are trying to hide it from knowledgeable consumers under different names. These names include soy protein isolate, sodium caseinate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, calcium caseinate, textured protein and yeast extract.
Some raw fruits and vegetables contain MSG in the preservative wax coating. MSG is also found in infant formula, vaccines and other medications and liquid supplements for the elderly. Regular MSG consumption has been linked to many health conditions which include hormone changes, memory loss, obesity, stunted growth, mood swings, infertility, asthma attacks, depression, paranoia, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s and Alzheimer's disease.
Those most vulnerable to the effects of MSG are the elderly, children, infants and the unborn. It is able to pass from mother to unborn child.The best way to avoid MSG is to eat fresh foods with no additives. You can find seasonings, soups and sauces free of MSG at your local health food or organic grocery store. If you are using a recipe that calls for MSG you can use fresh lemon as a substitute.