MSG: Not Just in Chinese Food Anymore

 

 

If we just stop eating MSG, maybe we can put a stop to the growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases in today’s population.

It’s not that easy.  MSG is everywhere!

In the last thirty years, the greatest change to the North American diet has come in the form of fast food.  Families are eating out twenty times more than they did three decades ago.  It is at these fast food establishments that our bodies face undisclosed amounts of MSG.

 

The food industry wants you to believe that MSG in restaurants is confined to Chinese dining establishments.  As recently as 1999, R. Walker, researcher for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, referred to Monosodium Glutamate as an ingredient in “ethnic cuisines.”[1]  We would hardly consider McDonald’s to be ethnic cuisine, nor do we think that A&W, Applebee’s, Arby’s, Big Boy, Bob Evans, Bonanza, Boston Market, Boston Pizza, Burger King, Captain D’s, Carls Jr., Chili’s, Church’s Chicken, Cracker Barrel, Dairy Queen, Denny’s, Domino’s, Golden Corral, Hard Rock Café, Hardee’s, Harvey’s, Hooters, International House of Pancakes, Jack in the Box, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Long John Silver’s, Outback Steakhouse, Pizza Hut, Ponderosa, Popeye’s, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday, Sizzler, Sonic Drive-In, Swiss Chalet, Taco Bell, T.G.I Friday’s, Tim Horton’s, Pizzeria Uno, Village Inn, Wendy’s, Western Sizzlin, White Castle, or the myriad of other fast food establishments that use large amounts of MSG, hydrolyzed protein or other glutamates in their foods, to be ‘ethnic’ in their menu offerings. 

 

MSG, once thought of as a seasoning found only in chinese buffets, is now found in almost every restaurant across the continent.  Everyday we order from those smiling faces behind the counters.   We offer our children a tray filled with items whose origin is unknown, filled with more Glutamate than their bodies need.

 

In fact, our bodies do not need any MSG, not a bit, not even a gram. 

 

MSG is not a vitamin, mineral, or even a source of nutrition.  While Glutamates can be found in nature in small amounts, MSG can be found distilling in giant vats, where bacteria breaks down proteins and excretes Monosodium Glutamate.  Here is the industrial origin of MSG in your food (known in manufacturing and laboratories as L-Glutamate).  This is what we are putting in our children’s bodies:

           

“Since the discovery of Corynebacterium glutamicum as an efficient Glutamate-overproducing microorganism in 1957, the production of L-amino acids by the fermentative method has become one of the most important research-target of industrial microbiology. Several research groups have developed metabolic engineering principles for L-amino acid-producing C. glutamicum strains over the last four decades. The mechanism of L-Glutamate-overproduction by the microorganism is very unique and interesting. L-Glutamate overproduction by this bacterium, a biotin auxotroph, is induced by a biotin limitation and suppressed by an excess of biotin. Addition of a surfactant or penicillin is known to induce L-Glutamate overproduction under excess biotin. After the development of the general molecular biology tools such as cloning vectors and DNA transfer technique, genes encoding biosynthetic enzymes were isolated. With those genes and tools, recombinant DNA technology can be applied in analysis of biosynthetic pathways and strain construction of C. glutamicum.”[2]

 

Did the above paragraph make sense to you?  It certainly baffles me.  This description does not sound like a natural way to make something that we eat on a daily basis.  Yet it is the above process that creates the MSG that food manufactures can refer to as “natural flavorings’ on food ingredients lists.  The Glutamate manufacturers have even managed to get organic associations to consider MSG to be a natural and organic ingredient.

 

MSG is put in food for two reasons: to make us choose the product that has it over one that doesn’t, and to make us eat more of that product.

 

In 1909, Dr. Ikeda patented the production of this ‘natural ingredient,’ a flavor he called Unami.  Today 1.5 million tons of MSG is produced for the global food industry.  3 billion pounds of flavoring per year are being added to our food.  Ajinomoto Company is proud to supply a third of the world’s MSG, and claims that the use of MSG grows by 6% every year.  Not only does Ajinomoto sell MSG to the food industry, but also to laboratories for use in animal experiments, some of which may have been quoted in this book.

 

Not the most wholesome thing we would want to give our children, is it?

 

Maybe you can still go to restaurants; you’ll just be sure to ask if there is any MSG in the menu item you would like.  Be prepared to practice patience.  Some restaurants have a brochure with MSG and other Glutamate containing ingredients like hydrolyzed protein or autolyzed yeast to show you.  We appreciate restaurants like this; sadly they are few and far between.  We have had more than one restaurant manager swear up and down they didn’t use MSG, only to have him or her come out to our table minutes later red faced with an apology.  Some establishments have web sites with nutritional information, but they often leave out things like sodium casienate, yeast extract, seasonings, or natural flavorings.  Glutamates can be hidden within all of these ingredients.  Try to research or call ahead.  We have left more restaurants without ordering more times than I care to remember.   

 

Maybe you think you can avoid MSG by staying at home and avoiding the fast food restaurant scene.  Just pick up some supplies at the grocery store and make tasty meals at home.

 

It’s not that easy.

 

MSG in one form or another has found its way into almost every processed food you can think of.  MSG isn’t always listed on ingredients labels.  It could be hidden under the following names and ingredients:

 

 

 

 

 

Always Contains MSG:

 

Monosodium Glutamate

Monopotassium Glutamate                    Yeast Extract

Hydrolyzed  Protein (any)                     Glutamic Acid

Calcium Caseinate                                Sodium Caseinate

Yeast Food                                          Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten

Gelatin                                                  Textured Protein

Yeast Nutrient                                      Autolyzed Yeast

 

May contain glutamate, or create it during processing:

 

Carrageenan                             Natural Pork Flavoring

Citric Acid                                Maltodextrin

Bouillon and Broth                    Natural Chicken Flavor

Natural Beef flavor                   Whey Protein Concentrate

Stock                                       Whey Protein

Ultra Pasteurized                      Soy Sauce

Barley Malt                              anything Enzyme

Pectin                                       anything Enzyme Modified

Protease                                   Malt flavoring

Protease Enzymes                     Soy Protein

Soy Protein Isolate                   Soy protein concentrate

Whey protein isolate                 Malt Extract    

anything Fermented                   anything Protein Fortified.      

and even hidden in Natural Flavors & Seasonings

from ‘www.Truthinlabeling.org’

                  

Pick out almost any processed food in a grocery store and it is likely that these glutamate containing ingredients, separately or in combination, are in the mix.

 

Government agencies like the FDA make it easy for manufacturers to hide MSG under labels like ‘seasonings’, or ‘natural flavorings’.  How are parents supposed to buy wholesome products for their children if they aren’t properly told what’s in them.  Be extra careful of products that say ‘No added MSG’, this statement implies that there is already some in it.  Be wary of a seasoning called “Accent” it is 100% MSG in its powder form.

 

As you can see from this extensive list, there is a lot to remember.  Even in our MSG free home, we have purchased products, even “Organically Certified” ones, and found on closer inspection that they have one of these sources of glutamate in them. 

 

Glutamate producers are constantly trying to find new ways to add MSG into people’s diets.  They have already started promoting the use of MSG as a spray to use on crops (even organic ones) as they grow in the field. 

 

The Truth in Labeling organization has been lobbying the federal government for years trying to get them to close the loop holes to listing MSG as Seasoning and Natural flavoring.  

 

If you are serious about protecting your family from MSG, it will mean a lot of sacrifice.  Almost all snack foods, prepared frozen entrees, and prepared meats have one, two, or more of these ingredients.  Soups are filled with them, and are especially dangerous as MSG in liquid form raises the Glutamate levels in the blood higher then when taken in powder form. We had hoped to list in this book every brand name grocery item that contained glutamate in some form or another, but after days researching at the grocery stores, the list had grown to two hundred items, and we had only made it down two aisles. Just as the actual legal system starts with the belief that everyone is guilty until proven innocent, when shopping you must apply the same reasoning to every prepared, boxed, and manufactured food item you pick up.  If the ingredients list does not have a single item from the list printed in this book, you have no guarantee that you are getting a product without glutamates in it.

 

Though manufacturers are allowed to put as much MSG in their product as they want, (60% MSG content or more is permissible), it only takes a small amount to affect your brain.

 

A study in France suggested that at the level of 0.6 %, MSG in food caused people to eat more of it, and faster.[3]  When you consider that the average person in America may eat more than two kg’s (app 4 pounds) of MSG laced food a day, that’s 12 grams, almost two teaspoons of pure MSG.  If MSG makes you eat more, wouldn’t it benefit restaurants to add even more than that, perhaps 1-2%?  After all, there are no limits under FDA rulings.  This is very disconcerting considering it only takes one to two tablespoons to kill a dog. VETSIN (MSG) is used in the Phillipines to kill dogs. The MSG is put in a bread roll and given to the dog, resulting in unconsciousness, convulsions, and then death.[4]

 

It’s time to start reading labels.

 

As I have stated before, almost every processed food contains added Glutamate in some form or another.  Most Glutamate that occurs naturally in foods like tomatoes or mushrooms is bound to other amino acids and does not affect the body.  Unbound Glutamate found in artificial food additives is another story.  MSG is the most common unbound form of glutamate.  Some scientists refer to it as a free radical: a highly reactive molecule that wants to attach to something else.  With every entrée we eat, we could be overwhelming our pancreases and bringing ourselves one-step closer to a diabetic break down.  Children aren’t even safe when having school lunches.  The latest money saving idea in America’s schools is to enter into contracts with fast food establishments to supply the kids with fast food full of MSG in their cafeterias.

 

Institutions such as retirement homes are seeing an increase in diabetes and Alzheimer’s in the elderly.  Hospitals and other large facilities often use MSG to make the mass produced meals more palatable.  One study done in 1999 actually went as far as to suggest that facilities add MSG to the foods that they feed their elderly and diabetic patients.  The study suggested that by adding MSG, dieticians could purposely alter resident’s choices of what foods they will eat.[5]  MSG sounds more like a drug than a food additive. 

 

We teach our kids, “Say no to drugs”, so why are we feeding this to them?

MSG Safety: The Great Deception

 

 

A drug is any chemical used to create a desired physiological affect in the body.  In medical laboratories, we have seen how MSG is used to make mice populations obese and to kill specific areas of the brain.  The scientists who produce these studies value MSG as a drug, not as a harmless food additive.

 

MSG is a drug, one of the most potent drugs in your body.  It affects your body in the same manner that pharmaceuticals do.

 

The companies that create MSG know that it has a great deal of value in medical research.  Ajinomoto Company, the world’s largest producer and supplier of MSG, sells L-Glutamate (MSG) to the scientific world for use in medical research.  Other companies that produce MSG, as well as the food manufacturers that use it, are also well aware of the myriad of affects that MSG has on your body.

 

In 1909, Dr. Ikeda, inventor of MSG, and patent holder of the process to make it, helped start the Ajinomoto Company.  This company prides itself in expanding the use of MSG in products throughout the world.  

 

One of the reasons that the FDA says that MSG is safe is the accepted idea that Glutamate cannot cross the blood brain barrier.  If it would only visit the Ajinomoto web site that sells MSG (glutamic acid), and glutamine (Glutamate bonded to ammonia), they would see the companies claim that Glutamine CAN cross the blood brain barrier, and that it can be broken down into Glutamate and ammonia molecules.  The Ajinomoto Company itself declares just how Glutamate can enter the brain from the blood stream.  Once in the brain, the high levels of Glutamate cause “neuronal suicide.”[6]

 

Interestingly enough the Ajinomoto Website www.ajinomoto.com declares that they have discovered a drug that can be used to counteract diabetes.  Not surprising considering they create the MSG that may be the leading cause of diabetes. 

 

How convenient would it be if a company sold both the cause of a disease and its cure?

 

The Glutamate Association is a government lobby group formed in 1977.  Its members include MSG manufactures, as well as food producers that use MSG.  The Glutamate Association was created to promote the use of MSG and ‘debunk’ any research that puts MSG in a negative light. 

 

The Glutamate Association tries to make itself out to be an impartial group that is dispelling the bad publicity and reputation that MSG has received over the years.  Impartial, sure.  Imagine a nicotine association with tobacco companies as members.  Would you believe them if they said, “smoking is actually good for you.” 

 

On the Glutamate Association web page, with the misleading name of ‘www.msgfacts.com’, the ‘facts’ are presented to support the large-scale use of MSG in the nations food supply. 

To the question: Does MSG affect metabolism? The Glutamate Association’s answer is “No.” They have ignored the data at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, where countless journals state in hundreds of experiments that MSG creates obesity. They have overlooked the data from studies showing that even in average people, MSG intake can triple the levels of insulin in the human body.[7]

Perhaps they believe that increased insulin, which creates fat deposits in the body, has nothing to do with metabolism. 

The Glutamate Association and its members rebuke and ignore any study that could possibly tarnish their presentation of MSG as the most friendly and benign of food additives, comparing it to baking soda and vinegar.  Last I checked vinegar wasn’t a key chemical utilized in the brain or the pancreas, and baking soda wasn’t used to poison dogs.

When the association explains the reason that MSG should be added to food, they offer the excuse that it makes food taste good, and that it is a beneficial way to get the elderly who have depleted taste sensation to eat more food.  The Glutamate Association also says that MSG helps people eat less salt.  If it makes people eat larger helpings, they would in fact be eating more salt in the extra food that MSG drove them to eat. 

 

America’s children are not the elderly.  They do not need to eat more food, if anything they are eating too much food.   America’s children are at great risk of becoming obese.  MSG is doing its part to help this.

 

The only benefits that the official association that supports Glutamate can come up with are:  ‘It makes people eat more food, and less salt.’  Are these reasons worth the increased risk of obesity, diabetes, autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and other debilitating disease?

 

MSG is nicotine for food.  The Glutamate Association even supports this idea by saying it gets people to eat more.  Nicotine gets people to smoke more.  Is it any surprise that some people explain their need to overeat as an addiction?

 

Recent Supreme Court rulings have found tobacco companies at fault for denying that nicotine gave people the urge to keep smoking.  MSG gives people the urge to keep eating.  Tobacco causes cancer; MSG may cause an even longer list of diseases.  What is the difference between the misleading tobacco companies and the MSG producers?

 

Not only do the manufactures know that it is a harmful drug that affects major body organs, but the Government knows it as well.

 

In March 2000, a study from the Federal Bureau of Chemical Safety; Health Protection Branch of the Department of Health Canada had this to say about Monosodium Glutamate and the human body:

 

Glutamate receptors (GluRs) are ubiquitously present in the central nervous system (CNS) as the major mediators of excitatory neurotransmission and excitotoxicity. Neural injury associated with trauma, stroke, epilepsy, and many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's diseases and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be mediated by excessive activation of Glutamate receptors.  Neurotoxicity associated with excitatory amino acids encountered in food, such as domoic acid and Monosodium Glutamate, has also been linked to Glutamate receptors……… also present in kidney, liver, lung, spleen, and testis. Further investigations are needed to assess the role of these receptors in peripheral tissues and their importance in the toxicity of excitatory compounds.  Therefore, food safety assessment and neurobiotechnology focusing on drugs designed to interact with Glutamate receptors should consider these tissues as potential target/effector sites.[8]

 

The Canadian government’s Bureau of Chemical Safety recognizes the danger of Monosodium Glutamate.  The Bureau refers to MSG as a neurotoxic excitatory amino acid that can stimulate a variety of organs in the body and could be linked to many serious diseases.  The Bureau suggests that manufacturers of any drugs that could interact with Glutamate receptors should consider the effects on other tissues, while it ignores the MSG already in our food supply affecting the bodily tissues of the nation.

 

What has the Canadian government done about the MSG that they have identified as neurotoxic to the human body? 

 

Nothing.

 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has not even put MSG on their allergy alert list.  They must have ignored the FDA’s report that MSG is a known allergen for an unknown percentage of the population.  Instead of listing MSG as a possibly reactive substance (despite the research of their own government.), they instead concentrate on the more dangerous ingredients like soy, sesame seeds and wheat.

 

The CFIS, just like the American FDA, has done nothing to warn people of the dangers of MSG.  The Glutamate Association must be doing an incredible job as a lobby group.  It is the prime directive of a lobby group to influence the government in power to make decisions that benefit those the lobby group represent.  To date, neither the American, nor the Canadian government have taken heed of the hundreds of reproducible studies that show MSG has detrimental effects to growth and brain activity.

 

Why would governments defend the Glutamate industry, and protect an additive that could be poisoning their nations.  It could well be a case of inherited trouble.  MSG was approved by governing bodies that have long since disappeared into antiquity.  Does the current one wish to bring light to a blunder even bigger than the fluoride problem they are already covering up?  Imagine the lack of credibility the FDA would have if it suddenly did a 180 degree turn to say that the additive it approved and supported in unregulated doses was found to create diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism and other debilitating diseases.

 

Imagine the backlash against the fast food industry that has been promoting MSG laden bonus size helpings on every man, woman and child in America.

 

Imagine the repercussions against the food packaging industry that has been using MSG in their products to ensure we would buy more and eat more of their product.  

 

Imagine the loss in revenue of pharmaceutical companies if the key to the cures for diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases had more to do with healthy eating than taking a prescribed drug.

 

In United States, the health industry makes the most money when people are ill.   Teaching people to avoid toxins that could make them sick would undercut the profits of the industry. 

 

For all our technology and knowledge, a higher percentage of today’s population have some form of illness than almost any other time in the recorded history of mankind.

 

The origins of this increase in illness can be linked to the 2 major factors that have changed the most in the last century:  diet and lifestyle.

 

Some historians trace the fall of the Roman Empire to the use of lead pipes to carry their drinking water.  They did not know that something they ingested was toxic to them.  So what is our excuse?

 

The research is in, and the results are undeniable.  MSG can cause terrible effects in the body’s natural order.  A thousand years from now will the children in a classroom half way round the world study the fall of the American empire, and say, “Why did those people poison themselves?  They could put a man on the moon but they couldn’t protect themselves from their own blinding greed and ignorance?”

 

What will the answer be?  Will we trust the findings of factual research, or the propaganda of associations funded by the makers of the toxins that could prove society’s downfall.

 

Our children deserve better than that.  Our children deserve parents who question the safety of everything that goes into their bodies.  Our children deserve to eat food without additives designed to give them an unnatural urge to eat more.  Our children deserve to grow into adulthood without threat from diabetes, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s, and other debilitating tragedies.

 

There are two sides to this battle.  Those that demand that MSG and ingredients containing it be removed from the nation’s food supply, and those who will stand with the profit driven companies that created it, saying that it has value in our foods.

 

Is the value of MSG in food worth the risk to our health?  The deep pockets of the Glutamate industry certainly think so.

 

 

 



[1] Walker R. “The significance of excursions above the ADI. Case study: Monosodium Glutamate.”  Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 1999 Oct;30(2 Pt 2):S119-21.

[2] Kimura, E. Fermentation & Biotechnology Laboratories, Ajinomoto Co., Inc.,  “Metabolic engineering of Glutamate production.” Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol 2003;79:37-57.

 

[3] Bellisle, F. Monneuse, MO. Chabert, M. Larue-Achagiotis, C. Lanteaume, MT. Louis-Sylvestre, J.  “Monosodium Glutamate as a palatability enhancer in the European diet.”  Physiol Behav 1991 May;49(5):869-73.

 

[4] Schwartz, Dr. George.  In Bad Taste, Health Press, 1999.  pg 61.

 

 

[5] Bellisle, F.  “Effects of Monosodium Glutamate on human food palatability.”  Ann N Y Acad Sci 1998 Nov 30;855:438-41.

[6] Olney, JW.  “New insights and new issues in developmental neurotoxicology.”  Neurotoxicology 2002 Dec;23(6):659-68. 

 

[7] Graham, TE. Sgro, V. Friars, D. Gibala, MJ. “Glutamate ingestion: the plasma and muscle free amino acid pools of resting humans. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2000 Jan;278(1):E83-9.

 

[8] Gill, SS. Mueller, RW. McGuire, PF. Pulido, OM. “Potential target sites in peripheral tissues for excitatory neurotransmission and excitotoxicity.”  Toxicol Pathol 2000 Mar-Apr;28(2):277-84.  Bureau Chemical Safety, Health Protection Branch, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

 

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