The debate about MSG can be confusing, at best, because those who have yet to be afflicted by the sensitivity it can cause, claim there’s nothing wrong with it. Add to the mix that it’s cheap, it’s in a huge number of the foods Americans eat, it tastes good, and it’s easy to see no harm in it if you’ve never had the migraines or hives or upset stomach that MSG can cause.
But scientific tests have proven that MSG is dangerous to us, even if we don’t react negatively to it immediately.
Is it all in one’s head that they are sensitive to MSG? Surely something that tastes so good couldn’t be the cause!
However, in double-blind studies, MSG has proven to cause such negative reactions as:
- Muscle tightness
- Weakness of the arms or legs
- Upset stomach
- Numbness or tingling
- Burning sensations in the mouth, head, and neck
- Hives or other allergic-type reactions
Why Do We Crave MSG?
But what is the problem with eating MSG for those of us who don’t suffer from these symptoms when eating the flavor-enhancing additive? Surely it’s fine for us to eat, right?
The problem with this thinking is that MSG has been found to build up in the system so that eventually we will have these symptoms when we eat MSG…it’s just a matter of time. This happens because MSG overstimulates our nervous system, causing an inflammation response that gets more intense each time we ingest the additive until we begin to see outward symptoms such as those listed above.
And if you think that is bad, here’s worse news: MSG is chemically designed to make us crave it. And, it increases our appetite, so we can eat a bunch of fast food, but don’t feel satisfied. And what do we tend to want when we are hungry again? More fast food, which continues the hunger cycle.
Want more bad news? Probably not, but hey, it’s my job to let you know this kind of stuff! Extensive studies on MGS have found that this overstimulation of the nervous system can actually cause brain damage and nervous conditions, as well as hormonal fluctuations. This overstimulation is especially damaging to children’s brains since they are still developing. In fact, high intake of MSG in early life can cause addiction risk, behavioral issues, lack of emotional control, and learning difficulties. Scary when you think of all of the junk food children in the country ingest every day!
One important thing I want to point out is that while MSG is a manufactured form of glutamates, naturally-occurring glutamates found in food like tomatoes, Chinese cabbage and meats are not dangerous–only the processed-free glutamic acids that make up MSG are. So you can feel good about eating healthy, real foods full of glutamates. You can learn more about why our bodies need glutamates in my post about Umami.
Okay, I’ve convinced you that you don’t want to eat MSG. But how do you avoid it? That’s tricky because the FDA claims that MSG is safe enough to be on the market and that food manufacturers can claim their food is MSG-free as long as they don’t include it as a flavor enhancer. However, they don’t have to list it if it is a processing agent, which is very common in processed foods. See how sneaky that is? MSG is commonly found in prepared foods, but is often called something like these code names:
- Yeast extract
- Hydrolyzed soy protein
Clearly, we can’t trust the food labels. The best way to avoid eating and feeding your kids MSG accidentally is by preparing your own real foods at home. That way, you know exactly what goes into it. You’ll find tons of great-tasting, easy recipes on this site! Check out my Recipe Page for some great meal ideas!