What is MSG?
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is not a nutrient, vitamin, or mineral and has no health benefits. The part of MSG that negatively affects the human body is the "glutamate", not the sodium. The breakdown of MSG typically consists of 78% glutamate, 12% sodium, and about 10% water. Any glutamate added to a processed food is not and can not be considered naturally occurring. Natural glutamate in plants and animals is known as L-glutamic acid.
In contrast, processed free glutamic acid (MSG) contains both L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid, and is also accompanied by pyroglutamic acid and other impurities. The impurities differ according to the starting materials and methods used to produce the glutamic acid (MSG). It is only acid hydrolyzed proteins that contain mono and dichloro propanols (which are carcinogenic), and it is only reaction flavors that contain heterocyclic amines (which are also carcinogenic).
By FDA definition, processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is "naturally occurring," because the basic ingredients are found in nature. "Naturally occurring" does not mean that a food additive is being used in its natural state. "Naturally occurring" only means that the food additive began with something found in nature. By FDA definition, the ingredient "monosodium glutamate" is natural. So is hydrochloric acid. So is arsenic. "Natural", especially in our beloved food industry, doesn't mean "safe."
Processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is created when protein is either partially or fully broken apart into its constituent amino acids, or glutamic acid is secreted from selected bacteria. A protein can be broken into its constituent amino acids in a number of ways (autolysis, hydrolysis, enzymolysis, and/or fermentation). When a protein is broken down, the amino acid chains in the protein are broken, and individual amino acids are freed. These processes are discussed in some detail in food encyclopedias -- wherein articles on glutamic acid and "monosodium glutamate" are generally written by persons who work for Ajinomoto, Co., Inc., the world's largest producer of the food ingredient "monosodium glutamate."
It used to be that when any ingredient contained 78%-79% processed free glutamic acid (MSG), and the balance was made up of salt, moisture, and up to 1 per cent impurities, the FDA required that the product be called "monosodium glutamate", and required that the product be labeled as such. The FDA required that other MSG-containing ingredients be identified by names other than "monosodium glutamate." Never has the FDA required mention of the fact that an ingredient contains processed free glutamic acid (MSG).
While the glutamic acid in "monosodium glutamate" is generally produced through bacterial fermentation, the glutamic acid in the other MSG-containing ingredients is made through use of chemicals (hydrolysis or autolysis), enzymes (enzymolysis), fermentation, or a complex cooking process wherein reaction flavors are produced from a combination of specific amino acids, reducing sugars, animal or vegetable fats or oils, and optional ingredients including hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
It is now essentially unregulated when it comes to labeling standards. A label may say "yeast extract", "calcium caseinate", or "beef flavoring", but the product still contains varying amounts of "free" glutamic acid. This makes it very difficult for consumers who are trying to avoid it. It is also very dangerous for those who suffer severe reactions to it. Many people who are very sensitive to MSG experience respiratory, neurological, muscular, skin, urological and even cardiac symptoms.
3 TYPES OF FOODS WHICH SHOCKINGLY CONTAIN MSG
Many of the fat free and reduced fat milks tend to be made from powdered milk that contains processed free glutamic acid. Pasteurization affects the MSG content, especially those milks "ultra-pasteurized" -- the higher temperatures break down more milk protein resulting in more processed free glutamic acid. What about the organic whole milks? Unfortunately, those aren't safe from additional MSG either. Granted, the label doesn't specifically state that ingredient. All of the following dairy products may contain MSG:
- Ultra Pasteurized Products
- Powdered Milk
- Cottage Cheese
- Fat-free Milk
- Reduced Fat Milk
- Ice Cream
2. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Most people don't expect MSG in their fresh fruits and veggies. How can an artificial ingredient be in these natural foods? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows dangerous and unhealthy practices to be applied to fresh produce. Again, the USDA's certified organic seal does not regulate crops after they are harvested, and USDA offers no guarantee of the absence of MSG. Auxigro is a very controversial chemical-based growth-enhancer that is approved in the by the EPA for spraying on fruits, vegetables, and grains. It is a mixture of equal parts gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), casein hydrolysate and free glutamic acid dissolved in water. The "free glutamic acid" or so called "L-glutamic acid" component being used by its manufacturer, Emerald BioAgriculture, contains L-glutamic acid, an amino acid found in protein; but it also contains D-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid, and other chemicals referred to in the industry as "contaminants." The free glutamic acid used in AuxiGro is processed free glutamic acid. It is manufactured -- in chemical plants -- where certain selected genetically engineered bacteria -- feeding on a liquid nutrient medium -- excrete the free glutamic acid they synthesize outside of their cell membrane into the liquid medium in which they are grown. In contrast, the free glutamic acid found in protein, and the free glutamic acid involved in normal human body function, are unprocessed. free glutamic acid, and contain no contaminants.
AuxiGro, the first MSG-laced plant "growth enhancer" to hit the market, has been approved for spraying on every crop we know of, with no restrictions on the amount of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) that may remain in and/or on crops when brought to market. Even before consumers had an inkling that crops were being sprayed.
3. Baby Formulas and Baby Foods
The food industry employed its usual tactic in the face of consumer criticism with MSG, especially with baby food. They buried it under new names. The industry came up with a fabulous range of euphemisms for monosodium glutamate - the most cheeky of all is 'natural flavourings'.
Most powdered infant formulas contain some of the following ingredients including processed milk and or/soy proteins, enzymatically hydrolyzed reduced minerals, whey protein concentrate, corn syrup solids, casein hydrolysate, modified corn starch, carrageenan, which are broken down into MSG during the manufacturing process. Here is a link to the truthinlabeling.org website which shows a Canadian Study listing the glutamic acid in so-called hypoallergenic formulas.
Other Common Ingredients Containing MSG:
- Plant Proteins
- Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten
Hydrolyzed Pea Protein
- Textured Protein
- Autolyzed Yeast Extract
- Autolyzed Plant Protein
- Yeast Extract
- Calcium Caseinate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Disodium Guanylate
- Xanthum Gum
- Natural Flavor
- Barley Malt
- Malt Extract
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Ultra-pasteurized Soy Sauce
- Whey Protein Concentrate
- Soy Protein Concentrate
- Whey Protein Isolate
- Protease Enzymes
- Protein Fortified anything
- Enzyme Modified anything
- Citric Acid.
MSG Confirmed To Cause Obesity and Liver Disease
A new study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, identified MSG as a critical factor in the initiation of obesity and shows that a restrictive diet cannot counteract this effect but can slow the progression of related liver disease is published in.
Makoto Fujimoto and a team of international researchers from Japan, the U.S., and Italy monitored the weight gain and development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and its progression to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in MSG-treated mice fed either a calorie-restricted or regular diet.
Co-Editor-in-Chief Sampath Parthasarathy, MBA, PhD, Florida Hospital Chair in Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Central Florida, Orlando, said although MSG has been deemed a safe food additive, its dosage, interaction with other drugs, effects on vulnerable populations, and effects on chronic inflammatory diseases and neurological diseases are unknown.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.