MSG or monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer and additive that’s found in a wide range of processed food products, including frozen dinners, salad dressings, processed meats, and junk foods.
While MSG makes food more savory, it hardly does wonders for your health. In fact, natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola says that consuming MSG-containing products can put your metabolism off balance, causing you to gain weight and become prone to a number of health conditions.
MSG’s History on American Soil
It was in World War II when Americans were introduced to this dangerous additive. The US military realized that Japanese rations were tastier and heartier, thanks to MSG.
Although MSG gives off a delectable flavor, the ingredient itself actually has no taste at all. Instead, it tricks your tongue because of “umami,” a little-known fifth basic taste. Years before WWII, a Japanese man named Kikunae Ikeda identified umami, the flavor-enhancing agent in seaweed. He and a partner created MSG from this and later on established Ajinomoto, the world’s largest producer of MSG.
In 1959, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave MSG a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) rating and it has been used in many American homes since then. However, 10 years later, it was discovered that consuming MSG led to numerous side effects, like numbness and heart palpitations. This condition was referred to as the “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” as Chinese foods were commonly enhanced with MSG.
At present, the condition is dubbed as the “MSG symptom complex,” which the FDA dismisses as only short-term adverse effects.
How MSG Contributes to Weight Gain and the Obesity Epidemic
In an analysis involving weight gain, MSG consumption, and 10,000 Chinese adults, it was found that those who consumed the most amount of MSG (about five grams per day) had a 30 percent higher chance of becoming overweight than those who ate the least (less than a half-gram per day).
Researchers determined the possible connection between weight gain and the hormone leptin, as those who ate more MSG had higher levels of the hormone. More specifically, they found that excessive consumption of MSG could cause leptin resistance.
Leptin is called the satiety hormone. It signals your brain that you’re full and should stop eating. By gaining excess weight, the extra fat causes the production of more leptin to signal your brain that your body is storing too much fat. Leptin resistance occurs when your brain is unable to receive these signals, causing you to feel hungry and eat more than you should.
Not only does too much stored fat make you pack on the pounds, but can also lead to chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even accelerated aging. Consumption of MSG-rich foods, together with a diet of processed foods, sugar, and grains, is a sure way toward obesity and metabolic problems.
To make matters worse, MSG doesn’t just hurt your metabolism – it can also damage your brain.
MSG Overconsumption May Be Fatal
MSG wreaks havoc on your brain because of its nature as an excitotoxin. These substances overexcite your cells to the point of damage or death. They cause brain damage, or the worsening of mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many others.
78 percent of MSG is free glutamic acid, a neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system, eyes, and other organs use to trigger certain mechanisms in your body. Because this neurotransmitter can be found in your body, authorities believe that no damage is done upon the consumption of MSG.
Unfortunately, overconsumption of MSG, as well as other foodborne excitotoxins from artificial ingredients, can over-stimulate your body’s glutamate receptors, which are found within your heart muscle and electrical conduction system. It can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and even death.
The effects can even be deadly if your magnesium stores are low, as these make glutamate receptors more sensitive.
Follow an MSG-Free Diet
The most effective way to avoid falling prey to the adverse effects of MSG is to simply avoid it. Dr. Mercola says that if a food is processed, then it is safe to say that it contains MSG or any similar additive.
When you buy food, always be alert and read the labels. According to Dr. Mercola, the ingredients below always contain MSG:
- Autolyzed yeast, yeast nutrient, yeast extract, and yeast food
- Glutamate, glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate, and monopotassium glutamate
- Calcium caseinate and sodium caseinate
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Textured protein
By following a diet composed of fresh whole foods, you can ensure that you’re avoiding chemical toxins.
For a list of healthy foods that you should be eating, check out Dr. Mercola’s comprehensive nutrition plan.