Food Additives

MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate)

Ten years ago, consumers where just getting savvy to MSG.  We chose Chinese restaurants that did not use MSG because many people noticed they felt sick after eating it.  Today, manufacturers know that MSG is a substance most people do not want in their food, so they have come up with ways of disguising it under other names.

Why, you ask? Because it makes food taste better "to the brain" as it stimulates the glutamate receptors. This makes people eat larger portions and purchase more of these foods. You've heard the potato chip marketing phrase "Can't eat just one." Now you know why.

The problem with MSG and the reason most people steer clear of it is because it is known to cause (these are just a few):

  • GI issues (diarrhea, nausea, bloating)
  • Neurological issues (depression, hyperactivity, rage)
  • Respiratory problems (asthma)
  • Circulatory and cardiac challenges
  • Headaches and migraine headaches

The following list are ingredients that contain MSG:

  • Monosodium glutamate, Glutamate and Glutamic acid
  • Gelatin
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Textured protein
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Yeast nutrient, Yeast extract, Yeast food, and Autolyzed yeast
  • Hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed soy protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed)
  • Hydrolyzed corn gluten

Sauces, broths, seasoning on chips, processed foods, frozen foods, cheese-flavored crackers, soups, often contain MSG. Be aware, even some "natural food" products such as those from the Hain Company sold at health food stores contain MSG.  In fact, many soy products contain these MSG ingredients to make them taste better. Be careful, I see dozens of foods sold at natural food stores that contain MSG.

Even if you do not have an obvious signs of a problem with MSG (i.e. headaches or vomiting), you still want to be careful to avoid it - especially children and the elderly.  Glutamate is responsible for long and short-term memory and stimulation (a cause of hyperactivity). Ordinarily, glutamate is converted to GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for a calming effect and speech – this doesn't happen with MSG glutamate). By over stimulating the glutamate receptor you can create inflammation in the brain and actually "excite a neuron to death." Combine this with over excitability, hyperactivity, decreased memory and focus, potential to interfere with speech, and an inability calm oneself and you can see why MSG is so damaging for children.  B6 may play a role in MSG metabolism, which could possibly explain why certain children (such as those with ADHD) have more of a reaction than others - B6 is a nutrient often low in children with ADHD and autistic spectrum disorders.

For the elderly and long term use in adults, Alzheimer’s is a scary concern.  The FDA states that abnormal function of glutamate receptors has been linked with certain neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, as injections of glutamate in laboratory animals have resulted in damage to nerve cells in the brain.  However, they claim consumption of glutamate in food, does not cause this effect.  A 1995 FASEB Report* created in conjunction with the FDA stated that an “unknown percentage of the population may react to MSG.”  We cannot say for certain that MSG in food can’t increase the risk of Alzheimer’s over the long term.

Currently, only foods containing MSG must be identified on the label.  Those ingredients that “contain MSG” or free glutamate do not have to be listed, so you can see a product with hydrolyzed vegetable protein, a ingredient that contains MSG actually say contains “no MSG” on the label.  There have been consumer requests made to address this labeling concern; however, the FDA has taken no action on this yet.

Here are a list of ingredients from TruthinLabeling.org that ALWAYS contain MSG:

  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic acid
  • Gelatin
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Textured protein
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Yeast extract
  • Yeast food
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Hydrolyzed protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed)
  • Hydrolyzed corn gluten

These OFTEN contain MSG or create MSG during processing:

  • Carrageenan
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt extract
  • Natural pork flavoring
  • Citric acid
  • Malt flavoring
  • Bouillon and Broth
  • Natural chicken flavoring
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Natural beef flavoring
  • Ultra-pasteurized
  • Soy sauce
  • Stock
  • Barley malt
  • Soy sauce extract
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Pectin
  • Soy protein
  • Whey protein
  • Protease
  • Soy protein concentrate
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Protease enzymes
  • Anything protein fortified
  • Flavors(s) & Flavoring(s)
  • Anything enzyme modified
  • Anything fermented
  • Natural flavor(s) & flavoring(s)
  • Enzymes
  • Seasonings  (the word "seasonings")

* FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition on MSG: visit website

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