The other day, I got an email from an American guy who lives in Malaysia. He was saying that cooking with mono sodium glutamate (MSG) is a real health problem to Malaysians and that he “doesn’t allow it in his house”.
MSG, so what’s the big deal? It’s the stuff used in large quantities in Chinese/Southeast Asian food, right? Wrong. It’s everywhere in almost all processed foods! You see, it was derived from seaweed in Japan in the 1930s and very quickly became popular in United States as a food additive. As long ago as the 1970s, manufacturers promised to take it out of baby food because of suspected problems no kidding.
Consumers long ago became savvy to MSG listed as an ingredient on food labels and stopped buying things with MSG. So guess what? Manufacturers just renamed the stuff. Here are some of the ingredient names in food that are “cover names” for MSG:
Broth, Casein or Caseinate, Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Yeast ,Autolyzed Yeast ,Yeast Extract, Hydrolyzed Protein, Natural Flavors
MSG is one of the most popular food additives in food in the US. Fast food chains and restaurants use a lot of it. McDonald’s use it to flavor French fries, the Grilled Chicken Fillet and the Sausage Patties. Pizza Hut uses it to flavor their Chicken Wings. In the supermarket, you can bet that if it’s a sauce, salad dressing, snack foods, potato, tortilla chips, soups, crackers, cookies it’s probably got MSG in it. It’s everywhere even baby formula. If it’s a processed or “convenience” food, it’s likely to have MSG.
Why? Because people buy stuff that tastes good.
The science here: Have you heard of glutamic acid or glutamate? It’s a naturally occurring amino acid in foods. MSG is the sodium salt extracted from glutamic acid. Originally, MSG was derived from protein rich foods, like seaweed; but now it’s made from starch, corn sugar, molasses or sugar beets. Well, glutamate naturally occurring in foods is a bound amino acid and the body is equipped to process it as other protein. But, when processed it becomes free and the body processes it differently.
Simply put, high levels of unbound glutamate causes free radical damage throughout the body. So, eating a lot of processed protein foods where the glutamic acid has been “unbound” results in free radical damage which is host to all sorts of diseases, most notably cancer. MSG falls into this category. And since it tastes so good, people want more and more of it. Other processed protein foods which end up with free glutamic acids include: ultra pasteurized milk, (this is an unlikely one) the wax they put on vegetables and fruit contains hydrolyzed protein and ultra pasteurized soy milk. Another side note: MSG is an excitotoxin. When consumed, it excites brain neurons so much that they are damaged or even die! Aspartame, sold in the U.S. as NutraSweet and Europe as Candarel is also classified as an excitotoxin. Yuk.
What to do? Well, I suppose we as consumers have to vote with our purchases. Armed with the knowledge that food manufacturers and restaurants are using MSG and disguising it; we need to read labels, ask questions and stop buying products that will harm us.
Eat well, stay healthy!
Resources: Everything You Need To Know About Glutamate And Monosodium Glutamate http://www.ific.org/publications/brochures/msgbroch.cfm
Interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock on devastating health effects of MSG, aspartame and excitotoxins http://www.newstarget.com/020550.html
Copyright (c) 2007 Ainsley Laing