What is MSG?

What is MSG?

I’m sure you’ve heard of MSG, but do you really know what it is and what the dangers are?

MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate is a salt of the amino acid – Glutamic Acid (glutamate). It is a flavor enhancer added to thousands of the foods we eat.

History of MSG

For thousands of years kombu (a type of seaweed) was added to foods in Japan to enhance flavor. In 1908, a Japanese scientist discovered that the ingredient in kombu, could be synthesized and added to food to make it taste better. During WWII, Americans noticed that Japanese rations,  unlike their own, tasted delicious. After the war, MSG, the flavor enhancing ingredient in the Japanese rations, was introduced to the US food manufacturers.

Dangers of MSG

MSG works by increasing the sensitivity of your taste buds. In other words, it makes your nervous system believe that the foods you are eating are tastier than they actually are. According to neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, MD, author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, when neurons in the brain are exposed to MSG, they become overexcited and fire their impulses until they reach a state of extreme exhaustion. Several hours later the neurons die, as if they were “excited to death.” Dr. Blaylock believes that MSG can damage children’s brain by affecting the development of the nervous system. Years later, they could have emotional and learning disorders (ADD and ADHD) or hormonal problems. He also links the onset of many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, Lou Gehrig’s, to exposure to MSG.

Many other adverse effects have been linked to regular consumption of MSG, including:

  • Obesity
  • Eye damage
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue and disorientation
  • Depression

MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. The food industry has found their own “anti-appetite suppressant.” The blood sugar drops because of the insulin flood, then you are hungry an hour later.

Why is MSG in so many of the foods we eat?

According to John Erb, author of The Slow Poisoning of America, MSG is added to food because it is addictive and food manufacturers want people to eat more of the food they sell. Food companies want profits. They don’t care about curing disease or preventing it. MSG actually enhances the flavor of foods, making processed means and frozen dinners taste fresher and smell better, salad dressings more tasty and canned foods taster fresher without the “tin” taste.

MSG is present in many of the items on the menu at fast-food restaurants, particularly the chicken items. In addition, MSG is also added to commercially packaged food products including:

  • Flavored (especially cheese-flavored) chips and crackers
  • Canned soups
  • Instant noodles
  • Soup and dip mixes
  • Seasoning salt
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Salad dressings
  • Gravy mixes or pre-made gravies
  • Cold cuts and hot dogs, including soy-based (i.e. vegetarian) varieties

Some unexpected sources of MSG include candy,  medications, soy protein, vitamin-enriched goods, chewing gum, and reduced-fat milk.

Also note that not all packaged foods containing MSG will explicitly say so on the label. Ingredients like hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, and sodium caseinate are all pseudonyms for MSG.

Even if you don’t eat processed food or frequent fast-food restaurants, you are probably still consuming MSG. It goes under the alias as “vegetable protein,” “natural flavoring,” and “spices.” The most common one is “hydrolyzed vegetable protein.”


3 Ways to Help Minimize Consumption of MSG

  • Read every label. MSG is present in foods that are not labeled as containing MSG.
  • Minimize fast food and eating out. MSG is not just in Chinese food.
  • Minimize consumption of processed foods. Item in cans, boxes, bags, and frozen foods may be fine but make sure you read the label to make sure there aren’t food additives includes. Remember, fresh food is always best!

Do you need some tips on how to make wise choices while eating out? Check out our post here. 

Another post that may be helpful is “Green on the Go.”  It will help you eat healthy while you are out and about this summer!


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