Below article is written by: Naini Setalwad, Nutritionist
Have you ever thought why ‘outside’ food tastes so much better than home food? You may be following the same recipe for a particular dish you ordered at the restaurant or that dip you picked off the rack at the supermarket, but somehow you can never match the taste! Well, that’s because you don’t store MSG in your kitchen cabinets. MSG what, you ask? Read on to know more about this invisible factor creeping into our bodies through the food we eat, like a silent parasite that preys on you without your slightest knowledge!
MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate is a ‘flavour enhancer’. It tricks the brain into thinking it is getting something tasty. It is not a preservative and it has no nutritional value. It does nothing to food, but it does affect the person using it.
In fact, some of the common ailments we experience today can largely be connected to ingesting MSG, a chemical commonly used in many food products we eat. Regular occurrence of headaches/migraines, lethargy, anxiety, panic attacks, disorientation, insomnia, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, asthma attacks, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, runny nose/sneezing, extreme dryness of the mouth and flushing that cannot otherwise be put down to a concrete cause, can all be attributed to MSG.
MSG is a fine white crystal substance that looks like salt. It is used as a flavour-enhancer in many foods, especially in pre-made soups, broth, bouillon, natural chicken flavouring, sauces, dressings, and processed foods.
It is called an ‘excitotoxin’ or ‘neurotoxin’ by leading neuroscientists because of its degenerative effects on the brain and nervous system. Neurons are over stimulated to the point of exhaustion and cell death. MSG first goes to the brain through membranes in the mouth and throat, and also enters the blood stream as MSG laden foods are digested.
The problem with MSG is that some people experience adverse reactions within an hour after they taste it.
A 1995 FDA-commissioned report acknowledged that an unknown percentage of the population may react to monosodium glutamate and develop ‘monosodium glutamate symptom complex’, a condition characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
• Burning sensation/numbness in the back of the neck, forearms and chest
• Tingling, warmth and weakness in the face, temples, upper back, neck and arms
• Facial pressure or tightness
• Chest pain
• Rapid heartbeat
A 2002 report from researchers at Hirosaki University in Japan found rats fed on diets very high in glutamate (up to 20%) suffered eye damage. Lead researcher Hiroshi Ohguro said the findings might explain why, in eastern Asia, there is a high rate of normal-tension glaucoma.
Effects of MSG
Besides the above mentioned effects, the following show MSG’s dire health consequences:
• • Obesity is one of the most consistent effects of excitotoxin exposure and is a growing problem that knows no age or sex boundaries. MSG triggers an insulin/adrenalin/fat storage/food craving response. This depletes serotonin levels which trigger headaches, depression, fatigue, and leads to more food cravings.
• • Asthma, which was on the decline until the mid-eighties, now shows a 100% increase in the death rate among children and seniors. Incidence has increased 600% in the last 10 years. The FDA recognizes that ‘uncontrollable asthma’ can be caused by MSG.
• • MSG is a known ‘mutagen’ (mutates fetuses) and causes significant damage to intellectual development, growth patterns, reproduction and gonadal functions.
• • Lab studies show devastating effects on brain development including dyslexia, autism, schizophrenia, violent episodes, panic attacks, seizures, depression and even cerebral palsy! Humans are five times more sensitive to MSG than other mammals.
1. Ask the servers at restaurants to have the chef omit MSG from your meal.
2. Avoid these food additives, which always contain MSG: hydrolysed vegetable protein, hydrolysed protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, yeast extract, textured protein and hydrolysed oat flour.
3. The following additives frequently contain MSG: Malt extract, malt flavouring, natural flavouring, natural chicken flavouring, seasoning and spices.
4. Be wary of these additives, which may contain MSG: enzymes, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate and whey protein isolate.
5. Contact the distributors of foods containing the above additives to see whether they contain MSG.
Effect on children
Thousands of packaged foods, ginger pastes, garlic pastes, dips, curry paste, chili sauces, pickles, packaged soups, stock cubes, packaged snacks like chips, crackers, etc., including many so-called health foods contain MSG in considerable amounts. Packaged foods designed for children tend to be especially high in MSG.
MSG has been shown to cause lesions on the brain, especially in children. These lesions cause cognitive, endocrinological and emotional abnormalities. In children excess glutamate affects the growth cones on neurons. MSG could seriously affect cognitive skills in children and cause learning difficulties. It also causes anxiety and hyperactivity leading to ADH.
The MSG myth
It is a myth that MSG is restricted only to Chinese cuisine. MSG is frequently used in all kinds of restaurants, even Indian joints. In fact in India, down south, some restaurants have been asked to add it to sambars just to add a different texture to it! Restaurants are notorious for using it, out of habit and lack of knowledge about it. The processed food industry, however, is using it with full knowledge of its making and effects.
So, whenever you can, read your labels and be aware!
Check out the following links for more info: