The Dangers of MSG That You Might Not Know About

Excerpts of this article first appeared on foodmatters.tv

MSG, also known as Mono-Sodium-Glutamate, is a salt that is chemically altered to work as a flavor enhancer in processed food products. Despite having a myriad of well-documented dangers associated with it, it continues to be allowed as an additive of human foodstuffs and is consumed daily by millions of people. Far from being a harmless laboratory mistake, studies point to the fact that MSG has some serious biological consequences in the body which are directly related to weight gain and the reduction of willpower. Hardly seems like a coincidence then, that it would be one of the most common “flavor enhancers” used on the market. We prefer to think of it as a corporation’s investment in its future profits because MSG will have so many negative consequences on their clients (you!), chief among them addictive tendencies, compulsive thinking, binge eating and so forth. All of these characteristics ensure that you will purchase their product again and again, consuming it until it is gone, necessitating another trip to the store to buy these horrible packaged foods.

Below are just a few of the negative health consequences that the consumption of MSG has on your body. We recommend that you start scrutinizing your labels more closely and eliminate this harmful chemical from your diet completely. One of the easiest ways to do this is to adopt a whole foods diet that is free of processed “food” products – adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and high-quality proteins to your diet while reducing or eliminating anything made by machines or in a lab! It should be noted, however, that MSG is not only found in processed products, but is a common added ingredient in Asian cooking. Make sure that the restaurants and homes you frequent for delicious cuisine are free from MSG!

Weight Gain: A study, reported in the August edition of Obesity examined the association between MSG intake and weight gain in humans. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study involving 752 healthy Chinese people ages 40-59. These people were randomly sampled from three rural villages in north and south China. Forty-eight percent were women. The great majority of the participants prepared their foods at home, without use of commercially processed foods. For the study, participants were told to add quantified amounts of MSG when preparing their foods. Eighty-two percent of the participants were MSG users. Their average intake was 330 milligrams per day.

After adjusting for confounders including physical activity and total energy intake, the researchers found that MSG consumption was positively related to increases in body mass index. Weight gain was significantly greater in MSG users than in nonusers. For the third of participants using the highest amount of MSG, the odds of reaching overweight status were between 2.10 and 2.75 greater than for nonusers.

Brain Damage: MSG operates on the brain, fooling it into thinking food tastes really great. MSG is an excitotoxin in the brain, meaning that it over stimulates the brain causing the production of excessive amounts of dopamine. This creates a drug-like rush that provides a brief sensation of well being. It is highly addictive, causing its consumers to keep coming back for more and end up overeating. In the process, brain cells are destroyed.

Because MSG damages the brain and alters the ability of the brain to respond to the signal from the hormone leptin that satiety has occurred, it is a prime culprit in the epidemic of obesity that has everyone scratching their heads as to cause. Several research studies have shown that ingestion of MSG induces obesity in rats. In fact, when researchers want to fatten up lab rats for experiments, they feed them MSG because its effect is so predictable and rats will bulk up with regularity. MSG destroys the hard wiring in the brain of a rat like it does in the brain of a person.

Corporations that sell processed food love MSG because it makes cheap ingredients taste great. The success of their highly addictive branded flavors depends on their ability to stimulate the brain and create a repetitive response to these products. Instead of creating a quality product that tastes good on its own merits, processed food producers just lace a low integrity food product with MSG without regard for the negative effects it will have on the person who eats this product.

One of corporate America’s best friends, the FDA, has said for many years that consumption of MSG is safe, and has condoned its use as an additive flavor enhancer in countless processed and branded food products. As obesity has reached epidemic proportions in American society, the FDA has purposefully ignored the steady stream of research showing its obesity producing effects. Of course, Health Canada has followed suit.

Liver Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is a common theme in a variety of disease pathways, including autoimmune diseases. It is a concern due to its increasing prevalence in the westernized world and its direct correlation with lifestyle factors, particularly the diet. Diet caused liver damage may lead to liver cancer. In a study reported in the February-March, 2008 edition of the Journal of Autoimmunity, researchers reported that injecting MSG in mice leads to significant liver inflammation along with obesity and type 2 diabetes. To address the long-term consequences of MSG on inflammation, they performed serial analysis of MSG injected mice and focused in particular on liver pathology.

They found that by the age of 6 and 12 months, all MSG treated mice developed liver inflammation and structural change. Lesions were detected in some cases. They concluded that their results take on considerable significance in light of the widespread usage of dietary MSG and suggested that MSG should have its safety profile re-examined and potentially be withdrawn from the food chain.

So is there any hope beyond avoidance? Because MSG is the most widely used flavor enhancer in the world, there are many times that just avoiding processed foods and certain restaurants might not prevent you from having exposure to this harmful chemical. What is a person to do?

A recent study found that pre-treating yourself with a supplement of red clover before you dine can nullify the potential for brain damage from MSG. Phytomedicine (June 5, 2008 edition) reported finding that the natural mixture of phytoestrogenic isoflavones found in red clover can protect the brain from MSG toxicity. They used a human cortical cell line to test the efficacy of a red clover fraction. When the cells were pretreated with red clover isoflavones there was a significant increase in cell survival and a significant decreased in the release of an enzyme indicating cell damage. The pretreatment also prevented the morphological disruption caused by MSG.

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