Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jan. 23: Toxin of the Day ~ MSG & Friends

Everyone knows MSG is not good for you. A lot has been written about the terrible migraines that some people get from it. But there are a lot more side effects to MSG than migraines. Further, there are a lot of sneaky names for the substance so that "food" manufacturers can sneak it into their products without touting that they contain Monosodium Glutamate.

MSG is a flavor enhancer obtained by the fermentation of carbohydrates. Initially it came from the fermentation of wheat, but now it more commonly comes from corn, beets, sugar cane or molasses. It is an amino acid called glutamic acid.

The "food" industry uses MSG to mask lower quality (ie, cheaper) ingredients. Studies have been done regarding the addictive quality of MSG. The brain craves it after a while. It gives a new meaning to the ad slogan, "Betcha can't eat just one!"

Serious health concerns surround MSG. MSG is classified as an excitotoxin, which means that it triggers death in certain cells. Concerns include: Seizures, brain cell death, brain damage, allergic reactions, headaches and migraines, strokes, hypoglycemia, and brain tumors. Some studies have suggested excessive consumption could trigger brain issues like Parkinsons and Alzheimers. These studies have not been verified, but if it is a chemical that causes tiny changes in the brain of the consumer, it does not sound that far-fetched. Asthmatic allergic reactions are frequent.

Studies in Asia have concluded that the consumption of MSG may be correlated to a higher BMI. The reason for this? Have you ever had a big Chinese meal and then 2 hours later you are starving? That situation is so common it is almost cliched. It happens because the MSG causes an surge in the production of insulin from the pancreas. The insulin is there to consume sugar, but MSG is not a sugar. You become so ravenously hungry because your body becomes extremely low on sugar.

All of these effects are more pronounced in infants and children. Their little systems can't handle it. Dr. Russell Blaylock, author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills says that there is "overwhelming evidence" that MSG can cause obesity and metabolic syndrome in children. Studies on young rats showed lesions on the brains of MSG fed rats, and the inability to learn their way through a maze. Yet, if the labels are read, some BABY FORMULAS even contain MSG hidden under other names. In the 1960s, after a series of Congressional hearings, they baby food manufacturers finally stopped putting MSG in their harmless looking little jars of baby food.

The FDA allows MSG to be in our food. They have added the caveat that the label must state that the product contains MSG. So the "food" industry has bypassed that by inviting MSG's friends to the party. Every label is like a veritable costume ball. First, here is a list of items that are MSG:

Monosodium Glutamate
Hydrolized Vegetable Protein
Autolyzed Yeast
Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
Plant Protein Extract
Sodium Caseinate
Calcium Caseinate
Yeast Extract
Textured Protein (including TVP)
Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Corn Oil
Now, if that list does not contain enough aliases, I have a couple more lists. These are items that "sometimes" contain MSG or "may" contain MSG:
Malt Extract or Flavoring
Stock Flavoring
Natural Flavors
Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring
Whey Protein and Concentrate
Soy Protein Isolate
Soy Protein Concentrate
This begs the question: If MSG is safe, why do the manufacturers feel the need to hide it under so many different names? Why must I keep a list with me when I go to the grocery store of all the names it may be hidden under? I think this is all quite suspicious.

Because it is a fermentation of natural products the FDA does allow MSG to be considered a "natural flavoring". It IS natural. Natural does not always mean good for us. If it has to be brought forth in a lab and separated, then added to our food, it is not food the way nature intended.

I have to go read some labels in my cupboards now. I think some of this nasty snuff may have snuck into my house under the guise of a natural flavoring.

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