Despite common perception, the toxic food additive MSG is everywhere – not just in Chinese food! This taste enhancer is actually hidden under dozens of ingredient names in all sorts of processed foods, restaurant foods, beverages, chewing gums, vitamins and supplements. It is added to foods in higher dosages than ever before, and more and more people are experiencing symptoms.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a health concern because it contains glutamate. Glutamate is the salt form of “Free Glutamic Acid” – a toxin that is associated with a wide array of ailments including, but not limited to: anxiety, asthma, burning sensations, diabetes, fibromyalgia, headaches/migraines, heart attacks, IBS, numbness, obesity, reflux, seizures, and vision problems. (Click here for a more complete list of symptoms: http://www.msgmyth.com/symptoms.html.)
Most people are not aware that food additives may cause or aggravate their symptoms; and those who do happen to learn about the effects of MSG usually do not understand all of the hidden sources of Free Glutamic Acid. There are literally dozens of ingredient names (e.g., “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” “spice,” “flavor,” “broth”) in the food supply that the FDA allows to disguise Free Glutamic Acid, so just avoiding foods with “MSG” on the label is not good enough. Processed glutamate in any form must be avoided. (Click here for additional examples of these hidden names: http://www.msgmyth.com/hidden_names.html.)
When consumers look for “MSG-Free” products, what they are really seeking to avoid are the negative health effects of any form of processed Free Glutamic Acid. Because most folks have not been educated about the distinction between these ingredient names, food companies take full advantage and brag about their products being “MSG-Free.” When these “MSG-Free” products contain no pure MSG (monosodium glutamate) but do contain Free Glutamic Acid within other ingredients, uneducated consumers are misled into thinking they are purchasing healthful items.
What is Natural Glutamic Acid?
To understand why the ingestion of Free Glutamic Acid is problematic, one must first understand what natural Glutamic Acid is and what function it serves in the body. Natural Glutamic Acid is an amino acid (i.e., a building block of protein) that occurs naturally in the body as one of many excitatory neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that literally “excite” cells into action.
Glutamic Acid also occurs naturally in certain unprocessed whole foods (e.g., tomatoes, meats, milk), leading many people to incorrectly believe that MSG is also “natural” and safe. When Glutamic Acid occurs in nature, as in some unprocessed whole foods, it is bound (i.e., “linked”) to other amino acids to form a protein. When ingested, such proteins are broken down slowly by the digestive system. Then, Glutamic Acid is released gradually into the blood stream and is non-toxic.
If one ingests more of this natural bound Glutamic Acid than is needed, the body simply clears away the excess just as it was designed to do. The digestion of these natural, whole foods releases such small amounts of Glutamic Acid that even people who react severely to processed MSG can usually tolerate these sources without any difficulty.
What is Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG)?
When food manufacturers break down a protein (usually from corn, soy or wheat) to enhance the flavor of foods, they “free” the glutamic acid in the food, breaking the links that bind it to other amino acids in nature. When one ingests this already-broken-down form of glutamate (i.e., “Free Glutamic Acid”), blood levels of glutamate can rapidly spike to more than 20 times the usual amount because the digestive system does not have to work to break down the bonds between the amino acids.
The human nervous system is not equipped to handle such a rapid influx, and the excess glutamate cannot be efficiently cleared away. It accumulates around the cells throughout the body, over-exciting them to the point of damage or death. This disruption at the cellular level leads to a range of physiological reactions that may be as minor as a runny nose or as severe and life-threatening as a heart attack.
Health Effects of Free Glutamic Acid
According to experts like Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D., Free Glutamic Acid is a toxin, not an allergen. Some people are sensitive to lower dosages than others, but it affects everyone to some degree. There is often a delay between ingestion and onset of symptoms, preventing many people from realizing the connection. Most acute symptoms will display within 48 hours (many within 30 minutes) of ingestion, but some health effects (e.g., obesity, infertility) have been demonstrated in lab mice long after exposure.
Because glutamate receptors line various organs and tissues (brain, heart, lungs, reproductive organs, digestive tract, etc.) throughout the body, ingesting processed Free Glutamic Acid can disrupt just about any system and contribute to a wide variety of symptoms ranging from asthma to seizures. Luckily, much of this damage is reversible, and many sufferers resolve their symptoms (often within 7-10 days) by completely eliminating Free Glutamic Acid from their diets.
To prevent these effects and to avoid hidden additives, one must prepare meals at home from basic, whole food ingredients; minimize reliance on processed foods; read every ingredient list; and avoid any mysterious or vague ingredients on product labels. (If you need help revamping your diet, check out my Natural Foods Cookbook & Shopping Guide. It includes 160 delicious, additive-free recipes and a comprehensive shopping guide to help you navigate the grocery aisles!)
By refusing to purchase foods containing hidden additives and chemical ingredients, consumers have the power to change the variety of products available at the grocery store. Because food companies are in business to make a profit, they have no choice but to respond to consumer demand. Thus, every food purchase is literally a “vote” for what types of food a consumer would like to see on grocery shelves. As more shoppers become outraged about these processed food additives, manufacturers are increasingly forced to reformulate their products using more wholesome, natural ingredients.
(Note: Portions of this article were previously published on NaturalNews.com: http://www.naturalnews.com/033189_MSG_processed_foods.html)
Anglesey, D. Battling the MSG Myth: A Survival Guide and Cookbook. Kennewick: Front Porch Productions, 1997.
Blaylock, R.L. Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills. Santa Fe: Health Press, 1997
Erb, J.E. and T.M. The Slow Poisoning of America. Virginia Beach: Paladins Press, 2003.
Schwartz, G.R. In Bad Taste: The MSG Symptom Complex (revised). Santa Fe: Health Press, 1999.