Dr. Roy Murrell, DC 200 NE 20th Avenue, Suite 140 Portland Oregon 97232 - disclaimer - 971-312-9497
Most everyone has heard of MSG. Unfortunately, many think it is just a Chinese restaurant spice. Nothing could be further from the truth. MSG, in short, is a flavor enhancer. MSG started to gain popularity with food manufacturers in the early 70s and since then has grown to invade almost every processed food on store shelves today. It is also used extensively in fast food restaurants, even when they say No MSG.
So What Is It?
In scientific circles, it is known as an "excitotoxin" or a neurotoxin for its degenerative effects on the brain and nervous system. Researchers say it can excite neurons to the point of exhaustion and death. It can actually alter the brain's perception of taste making it a somewhat addictive chemical. It is made from the amino acid "glutamic acid" by breaking normal protein bonds which then creates something called free glutamate (something never found in nature).
MSG is classified as a major "excitotoxin" and is known to damage the part of the brain that governs many other systems in the body. This damage may appear as disorders of the autonomic nervous and endocrine systems. This can be manifested in disrupted sleep patterns, food cravings, and persistent hunger which often leads to obesity. In fact obesity is one of the most consistent effects of excitotoxin exposure. MSG triggers an insulin/adrenalin/fat storage/food craving response. This depletes seratonin levels which trigger headaches, depression, fatigue, and leads to more food cravings. Research scientists often feed MSG in lab animals as a reliable way of inducing obesity.
Recent research also shows possible links with MSG and such degenerative diseases as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and ALS. These often take long term exposure and possibly a genetic sensitivity to MSG which makes it difficult to prove a cause/effect relationship. When MSG first started to be widely used, Alzheimer's was rare; it is now the third most expensive disease competing for health care dollars. (approx. 188 billion dollars/yr and rising)
For those who are highly sensitive to it, it can have a more immediate effect with such symptoms as Migraine headaches, asthma attacks, behavioral disorders, depression, heart irregularities, and digestive problems. Scientist say it only takes 2 tablespoons of pure MSG to kill a medium size dog in minutes.
So you ask; why would our FDA approve of such a food additive? The short answer is "junk science". Like most things the FDA approves; they do not do their own research. They instead, rely on studies done and submitted by scientist with physical and financial ties to the companies that produce, sell, and profit from MSG. It is the same reason the FDA approved Nutrasweet (now widely accepted as causing cancer and by the way is also considered an "excitotoxin").
How to Avoid It
You have to read labels if buying processed foods. Unfortunately you rarely see MSG on a label because manufactures know it has a bad reputation so they have convinced the FDA to allow practices that essentially camouflage the use of MSG. The law currently allows manufacturers to use other names if MSG is part of another additive even if MSG is a major part of this additive. So to help you identify these names I have listed below the most common ones:
-Vegetable Protein Extract
-Gelatin (The process of making gelatin from animals creates free glutamate.)
-Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) or Hydrolyzed anything
-Autolyzed Plant Protein (or Autolyzed anything)
-Senomyx (wheat extract labeled as artificial flavor)
-Yeast Food or nutrient
Avoiding these foods in restaurants is a bit more difficult. I think restaurants often will say they have no MSG while still using products with the above listed ingredients. It is all the more reason to avoid them at home where you have more control. Personally, I feel everyone would be better off avoiding processed foods totally as they are often a source of unhealthful ingredients. It is easy to say "Oh, a little bit of this is not going to hurt you" but those little bits of chemicals, both from our foods and from our environment, add up to a stress that can eventually become overwhelming to the human body. You link this to the decreasing nutrient content of today's food supply and you have the recipe for premature aging and disease.
You have a choice; be informed!
Yours in Health