MSG, otherwise known as monosodium glutamate, is used as a taste enhancer in many processed foods. It works in an unusual way – by tricking you into tasting more intensely by making your taste buds more sensitive. MSG is found not only in packaged foods you buy at the store, but also in many foods in restaurants. It is probably best known for being found at Chinese restaurants.
MSG is dangerous because it is an excitotoxin. This means it kills neurons (brain cells) by exciting them to death! Children, whose brains are still growing, are most at risk. MSG consumed by lab animals causes lesions in the hypothalamus of the brain.
Another reason to stay away from MSG is its link to obesity. MSG damages the hypothalamus – this is the area of your brain that controls appetite. This means that your body has no way of telling you when you are full so it becomes easy to overeat. MSG also causes your insulin levels to spike. When your insulin spikes, it causes your blood sugar to drop which in turn makes you feel hungry. Ever notice that you seem hungry soon after eating Chinese food? MSG could be why!
MSG can have serious side effects for certain individuals. Some of the adverse reactions associated with MSG include: stomach cramps, migraine headaches, heart palpitations, facial swelling, anxiety, and achiness.
MSG is hidden under many other names so it can be tricky to figure out which foods contain MSG. This is especially dangerous for people who are intolerant to MSG, or worse, people who have a severe allergy. It is too bad that the food industry is allowed to disguise certain things under other names to keep the public in the dark. If a product contains one of these ingredients, it contains MSG: glutamate, glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, textured protein, hydrolyzed protein, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, yeast extract, yeast food, autolyzed yeast, or gelatin. Also, if a food contains any of the following, it OFTEN contains MSG, or creates MSG during processing: artificial flavors, malt extract, corn starch, protein-fortified ingredients, seasonings, soy protein isolate, malt flavoring, carrageenan, citric acid, natural flavors, soy protein, barley malt, maltodextrin, protease, and ultra-pasteurized ingredients. Scary, huh?!
In general, the more salty or processed a food is, the more MSG it contains which is another reason to limit processed foods. Eat whole, organic foods whenever possible!
By: Dr. Christine Arseneau
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