What is MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)?
Aahh the dreaded monosodium glutamate aka MSG! So what is MSG? You might be surprised to learn that MSG is a food flavor enhancer that occurs naturally in all kinds of foods like kelp, tomatoes, green tea and parmesan cheese. In other words, it does exist in nature on its own.
It has a strong “umami” quality meaning - by itself, MSG has no real taste of its own. However it has the ability to considerably boost the flavor of any food it is combined with. For this reason, it has been isolated by science and made into a crystal that can be freely sprinkled on food to “enhance” its flavor.
MSG has the ability to do this because it temporarily heightens the senses when consumed. No wonder food companies love to put MSG in food. Anything you add it to just seems tastier.
Monosodium glutamate has been used to enhance the flavor of food since 1909. It was originally synthesized by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908. MSG is created by bacterial fermentation in a process similar to that used in making yogurt.
Ingredients containing MSG are sometimes also listed as hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, glutamic acid and yeast extract. Fermented packaged foods such as soy sauce also contain it. As a flavor booster, the active forms of MSG or glutamic acid are called D-glutamic acid and L-glutamic acid, and other toxic by-products.
Here is a list of hidden, alternative names for MSG and processed glutamic acid:
Any “hydrolyzed protein”
Soy Protein Concentrate
Soy Protein Isolate
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey Protein Isolate
People have erroneously attributed the use of MSG to only Asians. I’ve even heard some people say that they don’t’ like eating Chinese food because they cook with MSG. Then this same person will eat some Doritos, Cheetos or something... all of which- often contain MSG. In fact, most deliciously savory, salty snacks contain MSG. So if you ever wondered why Nacho flavored Doritos are sooo damned tasty- now you know. And let's not get started on fast food restaurants... most of them use it.
The scientific community is divided as to the safety of putting loads of MSG in food. Some insist that MSG is safe, while others claim it is a neuro-toxin that causes nausea, tumors, headaches, dizziness, lethargy, etc... The FDA has deemed it fit for human consumption. What is clear from studies is that it does cause allergic reactions in many people.
So is MSG natural? Yeah. But so is salt and sugar. And just like with salt and sugar, once its put into a crystal form, its concentrated. Concentrating it gives it all of its potential for danger. Concentrating any natural substance pretty much makes it into a drug. So MSG is fine in a tomato where its naturally found, but once its extracted and made into a form where you can just dump it in the food, or coat everything in it, things can get real unhealthy - real quick.
The thesis is - if your aim is to live as healthy a life as possible, MSG is probably best to be avoided - especially in large amounts.