There are many food additives in our daily lives; among them, MSG (monosodium glutamate). You may not know his name, but you must have crossed it, and more than once.
MSG (Monosodium glutamate), also known as sodium glutamate, MSG (monosodium glutamate), GMS or MSG, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant non-essential amino acids in nature. MSG glutamate confers the same umami taste as glutamate from other foods. Food manufacturers market and use GMS as a flavor enhancer because it balances, mixes and rounds the overall perception of other tastes.
It is an amino acid naturally present in the body and used mainly by the nervous system.
It is the most abundant amino acid in the blood and in the muscles. Glutamine plays a role in protein synthesis, immune protection, maintaining the integrity of the intestinal wall and the acid-base balance of the body. It is also used in the production of endogenous glucosamine, which in turn contributes to the repair of cartilage and tendons.
Glutamine is not considered an essential amino acid because the body is able to synthesize it itself, from several vegetable or animal protein foods (green asparagus, scallop, tomato, cod, parmesan, milk, etc.), according to his needs. Moderate exercise, performed regularly, increases the level of glutamine in the blood.
The glutamic acid present in many foods is not dangerous for health, it is just when it undergoes modifications thanks to the intervention of the man that it becomes dangerous.
MSG – Monosodium Glutamate
It is a flavor enhancer. It is a substance that has no striking flavor and that increases the taste and/or smell of a food product, without changing the taste. This substance by strengthening the taste of the ingredients present in the food acts as excitement on the taste buds and especially on the brain.
Glutamate works like any other drug on the brain. In the opinion of experts, appetite enhancers would act on neurons, preventing the proper functioning of the appetite inhibiting mechanisms.
Commonly called glutamate, it is one of the food additives (code E 621) most used in the food industry and in Asian cuisine.
Chemically, MSG (monosodium glutamate) is the sodium salt of glutamic acid (one of the 20 non-essential natural amino acids that make up proteins). This explains the name of “MSG (monosodium glutamate)”.
It is a white powder composed of small crystals that dissolve quickly in water or saliva. Once dissolved, this substance separates into sodium and glutamate. Glutamate is made by fermenting starch and sugar (sugar cane, molasses).
Glutamic acid was isolated primarily from gluten (wheat) and was discovered as the essence of the delicious tastes of good soups prepared in Japan. Originally, it was used in Asian cuisine, and particularly Chinese. It is now present in many products, including those that leave a smoky taste or “meat juice” like flavored chips, biscuits or broths.
For more than 50 years, industrially produced sodium glutamate has been used in the food industry as a flavor enhancer. This substance is added to a food product to complement or enhance (in the sense of strengthening) its original taste or aroma, without changing the taste of this food product. Another term often used to refer to substances similar to MSG (monosodium glutamate) is “flavor potentiator”.
For food manufacturers, its use has become a commercial necessity because it makes consumers dependent on foods that contain them. Consumers choose their products over competitors and eat more than if MSG (monosodium glutamate) was not added.
The Different Names of MSG (Sodium Glutamate)
MSG (Monosodium glutamate) is a kind of “chameleon poison” that can be hiding under different names according to food manufacturers.
* MSG (Monosodium glutamate)(food additive No. E621), commonly known as glutamate or GMS is used primarily as a flavor enhancer in the diet. It is a salt of glutamic acid.
* potassium glutamate,
* calcium glutamate,
* ammonium glutamate,
* magnesium glutamate.
Other names for MSG (monosodium glutamate): natrum glutamate, gelatin, hydrogenated vegetable proteins or oils, some corn oils, yeast extract, seasoning (when not defined), natural flavor, natural meat tenderizer.
Some Responsible Brands
Almost all major brands of prepared foods as well as fast food chains make heavy use.
MSG is in everything: Campbell Soups, Doritos Hostess, Seasoned Lays Chips, Ramen Filling, Betty Crocker’s Helper Burger, Maggi (Mashed Potatoes), Heinz Ketchup Sauce, Swanson Frozen Meals, Kraft salad dressings.
Restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and other junk food brands also use excess glutamate.
When consumers started asking for non-MSG foods, manufacturers shunned glutamate under new ingredient names: natural and artificial flavors, natural pork flavors, natural beef flavor, natural chicken flavor, soy sauce, isolate hydrolysed vegetable protein, malt extract, yeast extract, barley flavor, whey protein, maltodextrin, enzymes, etc.
Since its discovery in the ’50s, more and more foods have added this additive to their list of ingredients throughout the industrialized world. In Europe its declaration is mandatory in labeling as E-621 (Sodium Glutamate), E-622 Glutamate of a Potassium, E-623 Glutamate of a Calcium, E-624 Magnesium Glutamate, E-625 Glutamate magnesium or as a hydrolysed protein or yeast extract. In the European Union, it is classified as a food additive (E621) and standards exist on how and when it can be added to foods.
The powerful Japanese multinational Ajinomoto (“essence of taste”), whose founder is Professor Kikunea Ikeda, is a market leader. The Ajinomoto empire is present in twenty-three countries.
*** Umami Flavor
Umami comes from the Japanese and means “delicious”, “tasty”. It was the Japanese chemist, Kikunae Ikeda, who discovered this flavor in 1908 and also patented the manufacture of MSG (monosodium glutamate). It is called “the fifth flavor” or “the fifth taste of human beings”.
The other 4 flavors or classic tastes being: sweet (sugar); salty (salt, seawater); bitter (gentian, wild chicory, quinine); acid (lemon).
Today scientists know that umami is a fundamental taste because special receptors exist on the tongue to detect it.
The umami leaves a sweet sensation that persists in the mouth. It causes salivation and stimulates the throat, palate, and back of the tongue. The roundness caused by its absorption would make the food tastier, tastier.
Each basic flavor (fundamental taste) has a physiological role:
* the sweet taste informs the body of a contribution of energy,
* the salty taste is important for the mineral balance in the body,
* bitter may indicate the presence of stale food,
* acid helps the body to detect toxins,
* umami is related to the metabolism of proteins.
Products That Contain MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
GMS is used throughout the world in soups or broths, sauces, gravies, seasonings, spice blends. It is also present in a variety of processed, canned or frozen foods. In some countries, it is used as a condiment, like mustard or pepper.
* the chips,
* soups in sachets,
* crab sticks,
* certain cold cuts,
* almost all bouillon cubes,
* certain spice blends,
* very many prepared dishes,
* hundreds of desserts, sweets and other delicacies for children,
* the so-called diet products,
* many soy products.
The Dangers of Using the Food Additive – MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
Discovered at the end of the 1960s, the syndrome of the Chinese restaurant brings together a set of symptoms that would occur within a few minutes after a meal in a Chinese restaurant. The presence of large amounts of glutamate in Chinese cuisine would be responsible. The symptoms in question:
* flush, that is to say, skin rashes on the neck, face and upper part of the trunk,
* bloodshot eyes,
* burning sensations throughout the body,
* sensations of chest tightness,
* nausea and vomiting,
Some Asian restaurants in the United States are clearly displaying “No MGS” on their storefront, reassuring their customers that they do not add glutamate to their dishes.
1 – Relationship Between Glutamate, Excess Appetite and Obesity
Studies on the rat by Jesús Fernández-Tresguerres, director of the Department of Physiology of the Faculty of Medicine of the Complutense University of Madrid, whose results have been published in Annals of Human Biology, have shown that this additive increases sensation-hungry 40%. In humans, pharmacological inhibition of this compound may induce weight loss. This discovery could provide new avenues to combat the current epidemic of obesity.
According to researchers, glutamate acts on neurons and prevents the proper functioning of the mechanisms that inhibit appetite. Studies in rats have shown that glutamate stimulates voracity and hunger.
Its increasing use in foods could have serious effects on the tendency to obesity by increasing the feeling of hunger. In addition, from certain quantities, it could also have toxic effects on the body by destroying parts of the brain involved in controlling appetite.
2 – Eye Damage
Researchers at Hirosaki University in Japan led by Hiroshi Ohguro found that rats fed high doses of MSG suffer from vision loss and retinal thinning compared to the control group.
According to the report published in New Scientist in 2003, it explains that rats were fed three different diets for six months, containing either high amounts, or medium or no MSG. In rats fed large amounts of MSG, the retina had thinned by 75% and light tests showed that these rats did not see as well. In rats fed with average amounts of MSG also had eye damage but lower than the first group.
3 – Glutamate, Hyperactivity, and Autism
John Erb, the research assistant at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, made an astonishing discovery by reviewing hundreds of scientific research articles for the writing of his book entitled “Slow Poisoning of America”. He presented his report on the issue at a conference held at the Defeat Autism Now Conference in Washington, DC in April 2004.
He highlighted how MSG can affect the fetus even before it is a month old. The barrier of the placenta is not yet developed and the embryo obtains the complete dose of chemical agents that the mother consumes and which is in her blood. During this first month, the brain is formed and glutamate can alter its normal growth leading to ADHD, (attention deficit leading to hyperactivity) and in more severe cases to autism.
Glutamate destroys certain neurons by allowing excessive calcium invasion into cells. This invasion triggers excessive levels of free radicals that kill cells. These compounds called excitotoxins are neurotoxic, that is, they have the ability to rapidly destroy brain neurons by exciting them until they explode.
MSG (Monosodium glutamate) is an excitotoxin, a term for a chemical that excites neurons and can cause death. Excitotoxins like GMS can aggravate many neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
By a cumulative effect, if we use a lot of sauces and condiments, we can ingest relatively large doses of glutamate in a single day and repeatedly throughout the year.
4 – Health Risks for Pregnant Women
GMS passes the placental barrier and large amounts of MSG (monosodium glutamate) can reach the baby’s brain and cause mental retardation. MSG can affect the fetus even before it is a month old. The barrier of the placenta is not yet developed and the embryo obtains the complete dose of chemical agents that the mother consumes and which is in her blood. During this first month, the brain is formed and glutamate can alter its normal growth.
Potential hazards of MSG (monosodium glutamate)
* Burning sensations in the back, neck, chest, mouth,
* Numbness in the same areas of the body,
* Bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) in people with asthma who suffer from intolerance to MSG, inability to breathe, shortness of breath,
* Excessive sweating,
* Tingling or heat to the face, hands, back,
* Facial contraction,
* Acceleration of the heart rate,
* Chest pain,
* Asthma attacks,
* Want to eat unhealthy foods.
Reactions to this food additive can take place just after consumption up to 2 days after. In general, side effects appear 20 minutes after consumption and leave after 2 hours. Experts believe that these allergic reactions do not cause a health hazard in the long term, but recommend to people who are hypersensitive to MSG to avoid consuming foods that contain them.
Large and/or repeated doses of MSG (monosodium glutamate), by artificially increasing the urge to eat, can lead to overweight leading to obesity, then diabetes in a sensitive person – especially children.
The most sensitive are children (four times more vulnerable than adults) whose blood-brain barrier is not yet fully developed and elderly people whose blood-brain barrier may begin to deteriorate.
How to Avoid Glutamate?
As GMS is largely manufactured, the best way to avoid it is to consume as little industrial product as possible. As far as possible, prefer organic food for which all flavor enhancers are prohibited, and favor foods that have undergone the least possible transformation.
In general, if a food is processed, it can be assumed that it contains MSG. We stick to fresh and whole foods, we are sure to stay away from this toxin.
You have to watch some ingredients on the packaging and read the labels. Here is a list of ingredients that still contain them.
* Autolysed yeast
* Calcium caseinate
* Glutamic acid
* Hydrolyzed protein
* Monopotassium glutamate
* MSG (Monosodium glutamate)
* Sodium caseinate
* Textured proteins
* Yeast extract.