Posts tagged: preservatives

MSG Is Hiding Under Different Names, Even In Your Favorite ‘All-Natural’ Foods

MSG Is Hiding Under Different Names, Even In Your Favorite ‘All-Natural’ Foods
Graphic – herbs-info.com – MSG Image © shutterstock (under license)

One of the most controversial ingredients in food production is MSG – short for monosodium glutamate. MSG is a popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine and food preservation. If it’s in a can and meant to last or keep for a long time, it most likely has MSG. Despite the controversy on the safety of MSG, the US Food and Drug Administration remains firm on its stand: MSG is safe. However, the reality is this: MSG isn’t safe, and while a majority of the population may not be affected by its side effects, a percentage of the population can experience adverse reactions to this preservative. [1]

What is MSG?

MSG is a sodium salt of the amino acid, glutamic acid. The FDA state that glutamic acid is “naturally present in our bodies, and in many foods and food additives”. While glutamic acid is indeed naturally occurring, can one of the reasons why it is found in the body be because we eat too much food with food additives? [1]

Because there are studies that are inconclusive, the FDA has declared MSG “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS, even if a percentage of people show sensitivity to the additive. Simply put, the FDA has allowed this ingredient to be present in most foods in the market because only a small percentage of people show sensitivity or allergic reactions to it. Proven allergens like nuts need to be printed on the food label for safety purposes but no such law or rule exists for MSG. However there are other health issues with MSG.

What Science Actually Says

In 2015, a study published in October by Sharma, focused on how MSG causes oxidative kidney damage. The article reported that there have been various studies on animals that suggest that a diet high in MSG could cause kidney damage, specifically renal toxicity, through oxidative stress, or the presence of free radicals in the bloodstream. [2]

Another study in the same year, published in November by Prastiwi, Djunaidi, and Partadiredja found that high doses of MSG causes deficits on motor coordination by affecting the Purkinje cells, which are found in the brain. The researchers concluded that MSG reduced the number of brain cells, which in turn affected motor coordination. [3]

These are only two of the countless studies that mention that MSG intake can irreversibly damage our body. But because there are studies that prove otherwise, the FDA is firm in its stand of MSG’s “safety”.

Hiding in Plain Sight

According to the Mayo Clinic, the FDA has received many reports from people who displayed sensitivity to MSG. These allergic reactions called the MSG symptom complex are characterized by headaches, flushing, sweating, facial pressure or tightness, numbness in the face, neck, and other areas, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, and weakness. The Mayo Clinic advises people who experience these symptoms to avoid food containing MSG but how can you if food companies aren’t required to declare the presence of MSG in their products? [4]

Because of the rising popularity of maintaining a “fit and healthy lifestyle”, many food manufacturers or distributors are being forced to hide MSG under different names like glutamic acid, glutamate, calcium glutamate, and so on and so forth. So how can you avoid this ingredient if it’s hidden under a different name? And if there are no repercussions when companies do so?

Here are some of the names you will find on food labels that are the same as MSG:

According to the National Institutes of Health Open Chemistry Database [5]
– Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
– MSG monohydrate
– L-glutamic acid monosodium salt monohydrate
– Sodium glutamate
– Monosodium l-glutamate monohydrate
– Sodium l-glutamate
– Sodium glutamate monohydrate
– Monosodium glutamate monohydrate
– Glutamic acid, monosodium salt, monohydrate
– L-2-aminopentanedioic acid
– L-glutamic acid and Monosodium salt
– Sodium L-glutamate hydrate

According to the FDA, MSG naturally occurs in the following ingredients: [1]
– hydrolyzed vegetable protein
– autolyzed yeast
– hydrolyzed yeast
– yeast extract
– soy extracts
– protein isolate

Other popular names for MSG
– “Vetsin”
– “Ajinomoto”
– “Umami”

Going Natural

If you really want to avoid MSG, the best way is to go all natural. That means buying fresh meat, poultry, and produce and cooking and making your own food. This way you have complete control over what you eat and what goes in your body—plus you can control how to flavor your food according to your own personal taste. Not only is this healthier, it can even cut down on costs if you know you to efficiently portion the meals you cook. Of course, cooking and preparation does take up a lot of time, but remember, ultimately your health is more important than the extra hour you spend in the kitchen cooking.

References:

[1] US Food and Drug Administration. Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutmate. https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm328728.htm

[2] Sharma, A. (2015). Monosodium glutamate-induced oxidative kidney damage and possible mechanisms: a mini-review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26493866

[3] Prastiwi, D., Djunaidi, A., & Partadiredja, G. (2015). High dosage of monosodium glutamate causes deficits of the motor coordination and the number of cerebellar Purkinje cells of rats. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25697849

[4] Mayo Clinic. What is MSG? Is it bad for you? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/monosodium-glutamate/faq-20058196

[5] National Institutes of Health. Open Chemistry Database. MSG. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/23689119