Monosodium Glutamate: Friend or Foe?
A quest to find information about MSG's safety as a food additive has resulted in information overload, but I'll try to summarize the findings here.
***** What Monosodium Glutamate Is *****
MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. The European Food Information Council , EUFIC, explains that glutamate, the substance from which glutamic acid is produced during its natural breakdown, is a naturally-occurring non-essential amino acid.
Glutamate is found in natural foods such as dairy products, mushrooms and tomatoes. This amino acid, which acts as a neurotransmitter, is also produced in the body.
Most often, though, when I think of MSG, I am meaning that which is used as a food additive. Originally, according to the EFIC, monosodium glutamate as a flavoring and food additive was manufactured from seaweed, but in these times it is acquired through an industrialized fermentation process.
***** What About Adverse Reactions to MSG? *****
When I eat any processed foods that contain MSG, or eat at a restaurant that uses it in food preparation, I don't need anyone to tell me. Almost as soon as I've eaten, I get a headache, the likes of which is unique in its pain. My heart beats more quickly. Honestly, though, it is the headache that grabs my attention. It was for this reason that I began delving into "adverse reactions" to MSG.
Depending on which resource you find the most reliable, you'll find answers to this question ranging from "MSG: The Silent Killer," to an article I found at MayoClinic.org , written by a registered dietician that states, in brief, that some individuals may have a sensitivity to the monosodium glutamate used as a flavoring/food additive, but that no research exists to directly link any of the symptoms to MSG.
***** Bottom Line *****
Whether I am sensitive to the monosodium glutamate added to food or whether the symptoms are something else, I avoid MSG whenever possible. This is easiest to do when processed foods are reduced or eliminated from my eating style.
I had hoped to be able to provide a definitive answer to the MSG question here and will state that scientifically-based articles and references do indicate that all research to date has been unable to pinpoint any adverse reactions caused by manufactured MSG.
To help answer any further questions you may have about MSG -- or give you a starting point for your own research, I will provide a number of references I used:
MayoClinic.org : "What Is MSG? Is it Bad for You?"
EUFIC.org : "The Facts on Monosodium Glutamate"
PreventDisease.com : "MSG Lurks as a Slow Poison in Common Food Items without Your Knowledge"
WholeFoodsMarket.com : "Myths and Misconceptions: MSG"
ClinicalCorrelations.org : "Can an Amino Acid Really Be Harmful?"
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