Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Hidden Names of MSG

Many people today have at least heard of MSG and know a little of the damaging effects of MSG. What they may not realize is that MSG is in almost every bottled, bagged, frozen or canned processed food in the super market shelves today. It is added of course to enhance flavor but also to hide unwelcome tastes, and to cover inferior ingredients. MSG is in everything from crackers and soda pop to vitamins and toothpaste. (I might add being an avid label reader I have even seen it in disguised in a multitude of packaged "healthy foods" as well! says,

An excitotoxin is any substance that overexcites cells to the point of
damage -- it acts as a toxin. And there may be more to this public poison.
MSG can directly worsen autism, attention deficit disorder, and
hyperactivity. And MSG can cause the brain to be miswired, especially in the
womb and the first few years of life. That damage to brain connections can
mess up nearly any aspect of brain function, from the control of hormones to
behavior and intelligence. Many tests have been performed on mice and found
to cause severe brain damage over the natural lifespan of the mouse. AND
people are 5X as sensitive to the effects of MSG"
Further research shows that MSG is linked to Dementia and Altzeimers and it has an addictive nature to it as well. The very cells on your tongue can become so desensitized to taste that normal natural plain healthy foods taste blaa, with out flavor at all.

Since MSG is often a component of a formulation, it is not labeled as such. You've seen words like autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, and whey protein. Each of these substances contain a percentage of glutamate, the harmful component of MSG.

On the list below is the term "Hydrolyzed Protein," Precription for Dietary Wellness says,

Hydrolyzed Protein is a natural flavoring from the animal blood or other decaying protein sources. This substance is then subjected to acid hydrolysis, concentrated hydrochloric acid at tempertures of over 200 F for 4-6 hours. Sodium hydroxide (which is sold commercially as Drano) is then added to neutralize the solution!"

By simply calling it something different, several chemical names are diguised to the average label reader. The following additives either is glutamate or always has MSG included in it's manufacture.

Here's the list so far
yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient, autolyzed yeast, autolyzed yeast extract,
calcium caseinate, gelatin, glutamate, glutamic acid, hydrolyzed protein,
monopotassium glutamate, monosodium glutamate, MSG, sodium caseinate, textured protein, texturized vegetable protein, flavorings, natural flavor, malt extract, malt, natural pork flavor, beef or chicken flavoring, pectin, protein fortified substances, seasonings, soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy sauce extract, concentrated soy sauce, and soy sauce extract, whey protein, whey protein isolate, kombu extract.......


I'm going to add another to my personal banned list "tahini extract."

I bought a few packages of my favorite treat, halva, while up in Canada visiting family. I like to visit the Asian and Mid Eastern section of a particular grocery store because of it's relative inexpensive cost. Being a habitual label reader I noticed the ingredient "tahini extract." Hmm, sounded suspicious, but I foolishly bought it anyway. The first time I had some I noticed a slight heat sensation but didn't equate it with the treat. (dumb) The second time, a day later, it hit me full blast. It started with a slight fever, or raised temperature, then an instant runny nose and a craving for water, then about an hour later a massive headache. Upon going to bed about an hour after that I felt very nausious but managed to hold on to my stomach. (maybe it would have been better to let it go?) I knew instantly the very typical symptoms and scolded myself for my stupidity. I really should have known better. So I tossed the rest out and promiced to smarten up the next time.

So, I have now offically learned that anything that says (anything) extract or (anything) isolate, or (anything) protein is MSG in its varied and disguised form.

On a side note, there are natural sources of MSG that are relatively safe: peas, tomatoes, soy sauce and cheese and some Japanese vegetables such as Nori. (thanks, Milehimama for that comment added to my rough draft) Mushrooms for instance contain enough natural glutamites to enhance soups and stews with a wonderful flavor boost. Natural MSG is not as easily absorbed and is better tolerated by the body, BUT, if you do have a severe reaction to MSG you may also have a reaction to the naturally occuring forms as well.

So, If I have not exhausted you already with all the facts, I have a challenge for you all. Go check your cupboards, medicine cabinet and vitamin basket and see how many suspicious MSG ingredients you can find. I am looking to add to the list above or start a suspect list instead. (Then I'll do some more research to confirm any suspecious ingredients.) I may like to start a typical food or brand avoidance list for a future post.


Anonymous said...

I found your article very helpful. Thank you. MSG gives me horrible migraines and I try to avoid it. It can be difficult eating out or buying canned foods because of the MSG headache trigger I suffer from. Can you recommend a good chicken noodle soup that is MSG free? Campbells' Condensed Soup "Healthy Request" Homestyle Chicken Noodle has soy protein isolate and chicken flavor in it. Aisha

Janet Langford, said...

Thanks for your comment Aisha, (sorry it took so long for a reply. For some reason I did not get a notice that you had posted it) Yes, MSG can cause many symptoms but for many a headache is a dead giveaway.

I cannot recommend a good chicken soup that does not contain MSG because, quite honestly, I do not know if there is one. Out of all the competition on the grocery shelves it would be disaster to not include a flavor enhancer while sitting on the shelf next to every other brand that does. That is a good way to go out of business. Sadly, most of the decisions for purchasing certain brands are made on one and only one criteria - taste. If there was a huge market requiring MSG (and it's derivites) free soup, I'll bet someone just may come along and fill the niche but until then homemade soups are your best bet.

As to eating out, it does curb the lifestyle a bit but we rarely eat out much dues to the risk of MSG in many restauraunt foods as well. Unfortunatly, even if you ask the waitress if a certain food contains MSG she may well report that it doesn't but is totally unaware of all the hidden names for this chemical and so will delare it is free when in fact it is not.

I may just post an article on eating safely in restaurants as there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your little ones.