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MSG (monosodium glutamate) Part I


Last updated 7/19/2007 at Noon

What is MSG?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a processed sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most common amino acids (protein building blocks) found in nature. As glutamate, it is present in virtually all foods. Glutamate is found naturally in foods such as tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, peas, cheese, meats, fish – even human milk (20 times more than cow’s milk).

MSG is produced by a fermentation process of glutamate. The glutamate industry would love for you to believe that there is no difference between glutamate found in natural foods and that added as MSG.

Most of the glutamic acid with which consumers come in contact is found in protein, where it is connected to (or bound to) other amino acids. There are two forms of glutamic acid found in nature: L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid. When glutamic acid is found in protein it is referred to as “bound glutamic acid.” The glutamic acid found in protein is L-glutamic acid only. Eating protein (which will contain bound glutamic acid that is L-glutamic acid only) does not cause either brain damage or adverse reactions.

Glutamic acid outside of protein is referred to as “free glutamic acid.” MSG contains D-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid and various other contaminants in addition to L-glutamic acid. MSG causes brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders in laboratory animals and causes adverse reactions (see “Why should I avoid MSG?” below for a list of common side effects).

MSG is an excitotoxin, a substance that overexcites cell neurons, causing cell damage and, eventually, cell death. These excitotoxins are able to enter and cause damage to the brain because humans lack a blood-brain barrier in the hypothalamus. The MSG is then able to create a lesion in the hypothalamus allowing for abnormal development, including sexual reproduction and obesity.

Why should I avoid MSG?

As little as one-tenth of a teaspoon of MSG can give a severe reaction, and reactions can be dose-related: the more you consume, the greater chance of the reaction.

Some common side effects include: tachycardia, heart arrhythmia, heart attacks, asthma, headaches, facial swelling, swelling in the joints, marked obesity, impaired skeletal development, tightness in the chest, a burning sensation in the forearms and the back of the neck, joint pain and sterility in females. In laboratory experiments, every species of animal fed MSG developed brain lesions and infant animals were especially susceptible, as they had not developed an effective blood-brain barrier.

If you would be interested in knowing more about a specific area or approach in natural health or nutrition, send me an e-mail at [email protected] I’m open to your topic suggestions.

1. This article is for educational purposes only and contains information that is the opinion of the columnist.

2. Your individual health status and any required health care treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional of your choice.


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