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I wanted to know your thoughts about MSG? Thanks!

November 21, 2016, 11:32 am

Thanks for your question!

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a food additive used to enhance the flavors of foods, usually umami or the "meaty" flavor of a food. Most people identify the use of MSG in Asian foods, but it is actually still commonly used in a lot of processed foods like macaroni and cheese, potato chips, canned soup, just to name a few. Many people think MSG is harmful to them, but the answers are not so clear cut on whether or not this is true.

Some people believe that glutamate (in MSG) can act as a damaging excitotoxin, leading to destruction of nerve cells - but this has never been studied in humans. Additionally, dietary intake of MSG may not even have an effect on glutamate levels, so this conclusion seems unlikely. Other people claim to have MSG sensitivity, which is completely legitimate. The usual symptoms include headache, muscle tightness or numbness, weakness, and flushing. However, in the study that looked into this, the dose was 6 times the average intake in the US. So although MSG sensitivity is something people can face, it is unlikely with the usual diet of most Americans.

I think the most important thing to remember about MSG is why it is added to foods. Commonly, it is added to foods to enhance the flavor of something that exists in little quantity. Example: you can add less real cheese to a food, add MSG to make it taste cheesier, save some money, and it still tastes delicious. A lot of people have issue with this kind of food manufacturing. Even though MSG is considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA, the use of food additives is bothersome to folks. Another thing to consider is that MSG, as a flavor enhancer, is added to make people want it more and more of it. This can increase the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome, which is a cascade of nutrition-related diseases including elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. By craving and consuming more foods containing MSG (usually processed or fast foods), the doorway is wide open to the possibility of metabolic syndrome.

I hope this information helps. Feel free to always ask the team at The Sage: Nutritious Solutions regarding your food and nutrition thoughts!

Happy Eating!

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