Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the highly addictive ingredient, which is not only linked to obesity, but is also linked to a whole host of health issues from metabolic syndrome and neurological problems, to high cholesterol, fibromyalgia and liver toxicity.
It is a flavour enhancer and was first developed to stimulate the appetite of Japanese soldier’s because their sea rations tasted so bland. It provided the perfect solution to making tasteless food, full of flavour again and left the soldiers craving more.
Once food manufacturers caught onto this, they quickly realized that they could also add MSG to cheap, processed, and stale foods in order to make them highly flavoursome and get consumers addicted to their products. This enabled them to mass-produce foods with a much longer shelf life, and hugely increase their profits.
Whilst food scientists engineer all sorts of addictions into our food so that we crave more of their products, it is MSG that is at the heart of these and that has a huge impact on the increase of obesity.
Sadly, even so-called ‘health’ and ‘diet’ foods have fallen victim to MSG, as it provides the perfect solution to adding flavour back into a product, once the sugar or fat has been removed.
MSG is simply where one sodium molecule is added to the amino acid (glutamic acid), which is naturally found in many of our foods. Whilst most people can break down a build up of amino acids in their liver, glutamic acid and aspartic acid (aspartame) can be much more difficult to flush out, potentially causing a form of neuro-toxicity or a possible toxic MSG reaction.
Is it natural?
Glutamic acid is released naturally along with many other amino acids in the breakdown of protein-rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fish and grains etc. Because it is released with other amino acids rather than in high-concentrations on it’s own; whole-food based proteins do not cause a toxic MSG reaction.
However, when a food is processed, it causes high concentrations of free glutamic acids, which is where the problems occur.
Does an ingredients list have to show if MSG is present?
Since the correlation between MSG and many health and behavioural problems was discovered, public awareness has put pressure on manufacturers to remove MSG from their products. Whilst you can still find processed foods with monosodium glutamate listed in the ingredients, they are now very few and far between.
For those of us who are health conscious, it’s pretty much a given that we’d avoid any product with MSG added to it’s list of ingredients, but the problem lies with the fact that manufacturers are not required to label a food as MSG unless it’s pretty much pure MSG.
Shockingly, manufacturers can add an ingredient that is 90% MSG to a product, yet still advertise it as ‘MSG free’!
If MSG is a byproduct of protein processing or is produced as a result of protein hydrolysis, it does not have to be listed as such on a label.
Because of this, you will find that the majority of all highly processed foods contain hidden MSG and most people are totally unaware of where it’s hiding.
Where is it hiding?
The best way to avoid MSG in processed foods is through awareness. Have a look at the list below of all the places where you will find it hidden. You may be surprised just how much you have lurking in your cupboards…
Hidden names for MSG and free glutamic acid:
Names of ingredients that ALWAYS contain processed free glutamic acid:
- Calcium Caseinate
- Glutamic Acid (E 620)2
- Glutamate (E 620)
- Anything hydrolyzed
- Any hydrolyzed protein
- Monosodium Glutamate (E 621)
- Monopotassium Glutamate (E 622)
- Calcium Glutamate (E 623)
- Monoammonium Glutamate (E 624)
- Magnesium Glutamate (E 625)
- Natrium Glutamate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Yeast extract
- Yeast Food
- Yeast Nutrient
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Textured Protein
- Soy Protein
- Soy Protein Concentrate
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Whey Protein
- Whey Protein Concentrate
- Whey Protein Isolate
- Anything: protein
Names of ingredients that often contain or produce processed free glutamic acid:
- Carrageenan (E 407)
- Bouillon and broth
- Any flavors or flavoring
- Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
- Anything ultra-pasteurized
- Barley malt
- Pectin (E 440)
- Anything enzyme modified
- Anything containing enzymes
- Malt extract
- Soy sauce
- Soy sauce extract
- Anything protein fortified
- Anything fermented
- Anything ultra-pasteurized
Remember, in wholefoods, glutamic acid does not cause adverse reactions. To cause adverse reactions, the protein must have been processed, manufactured or fermented in some way.
The following are ingredients suspected of containing or creating sufficient processed free glutamic acid to serve as MSG-reaction triggers in HIGHLY SENSITIVE people:
- Brown rice syrup
- Corn starch
- Corn syrup
- Modified food starch
- Lipolyzed butter fat
- Milk powder
- Rice syrup
- Reduced fat milk (skim; 1%; 2%)
- Most things labeled Low Fat or No Fat
- Anything labeled Enriched
- Anything labeled Vitamin Enriched
Your safest bet…
As you read through the list above, you may be left feeling totally overwhelmed and unsure of what’s left to eat!
The simplest way to avoid MSG is to eat a diet that is focused on clean, whole, unprocessed foods. Avoid foods with a list of ingredients and cook from scratch, that way you always know EXACTLY what you’re eating.
Go through your food cupboards, fridge and freezer to find out where MSG is lurking in your home. Awareness is simply the easiest way to take control of your health and make healthy changes.
As always, please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below, as we love to hear from you! Did you find any nasty surprises? Were you shocked by what you found?
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