Hidden MSG

MSG employs numerous mechanisms in your body to make you FAT!!! I’m sure you’ve all heard that MSG is bad for you. But do you know exactly why? Or where it lurks? You may be surprised. Food manufacturers put MSG in EVERYTHING because it is the perfect flavor enhancer, making their products taste great, enticing you to buy them again and again. Hidden MSG is one of the main reasons the United States is suffering from an obesity epidemic.

Among researchers, it is common industry knowledge to use MSG if you want to fatten up lab animals for study. Researchers inject lab mice, rats, or any kind of animal with MSG, which makes them morbidly obese. They become obese because the MSG renders them insulin resistant (unable to get glucose (sugar) into the cells to burn as energy) as well as make them constantly hungry. With all that insulin in the blood, the hapless rats pack on the grams (pounds for us!). Insulin is the hormone that signals the body to store fat. Any time you get a rise in blood sugar (you eat a big meal or sweets, for instance) you get a rise in insulin. You can guess what happens.

Another reason you gain weight when you ingest MSG, or any other harmful chemical, is because your body protects itself by storing harmful substances in fat. Thus, the more chemicals you ingest, the more fat your body will store in an attempt to keep it away from the body’s vital organs. So, if you stop ingesting food additives, like MSG, you will naturally start losing weight.

MSG also makes your appetite spiral out of control. Your body loses its ability to tell that it’s full because MSG suppresses leptin, the hormone that signals your body that you’ve had enough to eat. You end up eating more than you normally would and get hungrier sooner.

MSG is extremely toxic to the body. It is an excitatory neurotoxin that excites and then kills brains cells. Hyperactivity in children is in part due to consuming MSG and other food additives and their excitatory effect on brain cells. It causes diabetes by making people insulin resistant, unable to process the sugar they consume. Cancer is another way you are rewarded by ingesting MSG for years. There are many, many other health consequences to consuming MSG, namely due to it causing inflammation, which researches have found is the basis for the majority of diseases and chronic debilitating health conditions. The short list is retinal degeneration, neuroendocrine disorders, reproductive disorders, stunted growth, learning and memory disorders, behavior disorders, stroke, epilepsy, degenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS, for example), brain trauma, neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and many diseases of the central nervous system. Pretty nasty stuff, huh?

Food manufacturers know consumers don’t want to eat MSG, so they’ve disguised MSG under many different names. A single product can contain many, many different types of MSG! The best way to avoid MSG is to avoid processed foods from boxes and frozen meals! ALL fast food naturally contains MSG, though KFC is the worst offender. Don’t be fooled even if you’re shopping at a healthy store like Whole Foods. Many so-called health foods contain MSG disguised as healthy soy (textured soy protein, soy protein isolate), but it’s really MSG! Read the label before purchasing processed, boxed, or frozen foods like veggie burgers.

Here is a list of ingredients, even some that may seem healthy, but actually contain free glutamic acid, the bad stuff that is in MSG or is actually MSG!

Names of ingredients that always contain processed free glutamic acid (aka MSG)

  • Yeast extract
  • Glutamic acid (E 620)2
  • Glutamate (E 620)
  • Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
  • Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
  • Calcium glutamate (E 623)
  • Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
  • Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
  • Natrium glutamate
  • Anything “hydrolyzed”
  • Any “hydrolyzed protein”
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Yeast food
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured protein
  • Soy protein
  • Soy protein concentrate
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Whey protein
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto

Names of ingredients that often contain or produce processed free glutamic acid (aka MSG)

  • Carrageenan (E 407)
  • Bouillon and broth
  • Natural flavoring
  • Artificial flavoring
  • Any “flavors” or “flavoring”
  • Stock
  • Maltodextrin
  • Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
  • Anything “ultra-pasteurized”
  • Barley malt
  • Pectin (E 440)
  • Protease
  • Anything “enzyme modified”
  • Anything containing “enzymes”
  • Malt extract
  • Soy sauce (Tamari or other high quality soy sauces are OK)
  • Soy sauce extract
  • Anything “protein fortified”
  • Seasoning blends

Have a story about MSG? Does MSG make you sick after you eat it? Are you sick of seeing MSG on every food label you read? Tell me your story by leaving a comment below.

Click Here for References+

1. Blaylock, Richard, MD. Excitotoxins. Health Press, 1996.
2. Calton, Mira. Calton, Jayson, MD. Rich Food Poor Food. Primal Press, 2013.
3. Collison KS, Makhoul NJ, Zaidi MZ, Al-Rabiah R, Inglis A, Andres BL, Ubungen R, Shoukri M, Al-Mohanna FA. Interactive effects of neonatal exposure to monosodium glutamate and aspartame on glucose homeostasis. Nutr Metab (Lond).
2012 Jun 14;9(1):58. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-9-58 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22697049
4. Heyes, JD. Dr. Russell Blaylock reveals secrets of MSG toxicity (excitotoxins) in Health Ranger interview. May 14, 2012.
5. Louis, PF. Yeast extract is hidden source of MSG in your food: Here’s where its found. September 13, 2011. http://www.naturalnews.com/033560_yeast_extract_MSG.html
6. Schwartz, George. Bad Taste: The MSG Symptom Complex. Health Press, 1999.

in Articles/Diet/Nutrition/Weight Loss

Dr Wendy Myers, ND is a detox expert, functional diagnostic nutritionist, NES Bioenergetic Practitioner, and founder of Myersdetox.com. She is the #1 bestselling author of Limitless Energy: How to Detox Toxic Metals to End Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue . Additionally, Wendy is the host of The Heavy Metals Summit, the Myers Detox Podcast, and the Supercharged Podcast. Passionate about the importance of detox to live a long and healthy life, she created the revolutionary Myers Detox Protocol , and Mitochondria Detox kit after working with thousands of clients, as well as a range of supplements to help you detox from everyday living and maintain a healthy lifestyle!

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11 years ago

Scary stuff – this is why it’s always a good idea to eat ‘clean’ and avoid processed foods… You don’t know what’s in them!

11 years ago

I just can’t site here and let this pass. I tried, I really did, but bogus science and scare tactics just get to me, sorry.

First of all, your list of things containing MSG is both incomplete and inaccurate. Soy sauce (pretty much any fermented soy or yeast product) naturally contains glutamates, usually in the form of MSG, and there’s no chemical difference between naturally occurring and processed MSG. To say that calcium diglutamate contains MSG is like saying that water contains oil – they are two different things. Both are glutamates in this case, but NOT the same thing. Also, fast food does not “naturally contain” anything – it contains whatever is put into it. Finally, ‘anything “…protein”‘ is a dangerous statement – not only is it not likely to be true in the absolute sense, it’s misleading and could confuse people into believing that all protein contains MSG and will kill you and make you fat and ruin the lives of everyone.

On to your claims. Were are your references, especially to all the “well known” things that researchers are doing to rats? The FDA, World Health Organization, UN Food & Agriculture Organization, and European Community’s Scientific Committee for Food all list glutamates (including MSG) in their safest category of ingredients. While high levels of glutamates have been shown to be neuro-toxic in lab rats, there is no firm evidence yet to suggest that the same is true for primates, or that glutamates ingested at normal levels increase blood levels high enough to reach the threshold of toxicity. Furthermore, Beyreuther K, Biesalski HK, Fernstrom JD, et al.(http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n3/full/1602526a.html) found no adverse affects in adult males after 30 days of 147g/day of ingested glutamates, and that doses nearly 3 times that were deemed safe in animal studies.

Glutamates are effective flavor enhancers, and (especially in the form of calcium diglutamate) can be useful by maintaining intensity of flavor while reducing salt/sodium content. Sodium HAS been shown many times over to have negative health impacts in high (unfortunately, typical in most diets) doses, so reducing sodium is generally considered a good thing. While anyone with common sense should know that consuming outrageous quantities of glutamates (or anything else for that matter) would likely have no positive benefit, and possibly be harmful, there is absolutely no reason to avoid them in low to moderate, reasonable doses.

It all boils down to common sense. Rather than focusing on the Evil Ingredient of the Week, eating healthy food in moderation, avoiding fast food and processed junk food, and moderate exercise always have been and always will be the keys to a long, healthy, satisfying life. It may be fun to point at some compound, the name of which you might have trouble pronouncing, and blame all of society’s problems on it, but it’s neither fair, nor accurate, nor helpful. Tone down the rhetoric, turn up the REAL science, and add a dose of common sense and hard truth, and you’ll be doing people a favor. Despite what the “Whole, Raw, Vegan, Organic, chew on these roots” people might believe, humans can and do thrive on a wide variety of substances, and just because it came out of a laboratory does not automatically make it deadly.

Wendy Myers
11 years ago
Reply to  Ken

Thank you for your passionate interest! I knew I would be getting a scathing review of one of my blogs at some point, but I never dreamed it would be in defense of MSG! I have to admit, this article was my very first blog. This is the reason it may not be as thorough as I’d like or that I did not cite references, but I will have to change this! You want references, you got it! There are many blogs that I’d like to go back and change, but I only have so much time. Let’s go over a few of your points.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I or a few of my friends eat a meal heavy in MSG, I feel sick. I feel nauseous and have a headache for hours. I set out to explore this further and was frankly shocked by what I found and had to tell other people about it. If pointing out facts is using scare tactics and instilling fear in people then so be it. I consider it my job to shake people awake about what they’re mindlessly putting in their mouths.

I agree with your point that the list of ingredients that contain MSG is not complete. I didn’t find it relevant. I listed the most common ones to keep it short and simple. The most common one is yeast extract. I thought perhaps there was no point in having a list of foods that contain free glutamates, but decided to throw it in anyways. But this is what food manufacturers rely upon – free glutamic acid in yeast (yeast extract) that they can add to food to enhance the flavor. So, I included the naturally occurring sources of free glutamates. Here’s why. The food industry’s claim that glutamate occurs naturally is deception. It does very sparingly appear in plants bound with a protein or other molecules. Bound glutamates are benign, and they are not concentrated enough proportionately in foods to create much “excitement.” Synthetically produced glutamic acid is a glutamate that is free from other molecules. And whether it is 7.5% or 75% free glutamate it can avoid the MSG labeling while delivering high doses of glutamic acid or free glutamate in each bite of food spiked with whatever enhanced flavoring additives are named. You can read more about this here: http://www.naturalnews.com/033560_yeast_extract_MSG.html

I labored over whether I should have put in the list ‘anything’ protein. To clarify, this means ingredients on processed foods such as textured soy protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, etc may contain free glutamates – not that all protein contains glutamates. I will clarify and change that. Thank you.

You mention that most governing bodies around the world recognize MSG as safe. However, it is naive to think our government or any governing body will protect you from harmful food additives and chemicals. Our government, and especially the FDA, is corrupt and in the pockets of big business and food manufacturers. THESE are their clients that give the FDA funding. THIS is why there are a lot of questionable food additives that are on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. This is not a strong argument in favor of MSG use. MSG itself won’t kill you. I guess in that regard it is safe. But my blog post states it has many harmful effects – namely interfering with blood sugar and causing insulin resistance and diabetes. This is the health plague of our world and modern times. One must do everything they can to maximize their ability to keep a stable blood sugar level and avoid insulin resistance. Consuming foods with MSG is not one of them. Granted a lot of potentially harmful food additives like MSG don’t cause harm to the majority of people, but studies do show that MSG is very harmful to fetuses and the developing brain in children and destroys the brain to the point of causing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – the other plaque of the our society. I hardly consider this ingredient ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ no matter what the FDA says.

You mention this study: Beyreuther K, Biesalski HK, Fernstrom JD, et al.(http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n3/full/1602526a.html). This study found no adverse affects in adult males after 30 days of consuming MSG. This certainly makes MSG sound safe, but 1) this study was done in 1970 2) I could not find the sample size. Studies done with fewer than 20 people is not statistically relevant and not applicable to the population. 3) A short-term study of this nature is hardly generalizable to the population at large. I’d need to see a longer study. 4) Who funded this study? It could likely have been the food industry. The results of research always favor the funder. This study only says to me that if you eat large amounts for 30 days it won’t harm you. But people are eating it for DECADES. My blog “Why is nutrition so confusing?” goes into the shortcomings of research and the problems with food research – which is usually done very poorly. However, we do have to rely on food research for answers, but not every study’s results can be cited like they’re a fact.

I agree, MSG in small doses is not harmful. But this is not what is happening on the Standard American Diet. This is not what I see in my clients. People are not getting small doses. Even I, who pays attention to every bite I put in my mouth, ingest small doses. But I’m paying attention. Most people don’t. I have been reading food labels for a decade. MSG is in almost EVERY processed food and ALL fast food. It’s unbelievable. People are ingesting massive quantities of this stuff and it’s making them insulin resistant and fat. It dials down leptin (not in itself harmful), but this causes one to eat more. MSG tastes great (not harmful), but this causes one to want to eat more.

Richard Blaylock, author of Excitotoxins, is a very respected food researcher. He says that:
MSG is a form of concentrated salt added to foods to enhance the flavor. It’s dangerous because, as Schwartz, Author is MSG is In Bad Taste: The MSG Symptom Complex, found, it can cause migraine headaches and balance difficulties, precipitate severe shortness of breath, asthma attacks and heart irregularities, cause disabling arthritis, and even serious depressions, not to mention behavioral problems in children. What we’ve discovered is, this is a very toxic substance, particularly to the developing brain. At particular risk is the developing fetus. The first evidence that the additive was harmful was the development among some of the “MSG syndrome,” in which people affected would have flushing of their face, heart palpitations, sometimes pain going down their arms and episodes of GI discomfort and diarrhea. Those were the obvious symptoms. What was discovered after that … is that there was silent damage to the brain in which there were few symptoms. But over time, we saw destruction of major portions of the brain – things that could cause Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s” and other brain ailments. You can read more about this here: http://www.naturalnews.com/035243_Russell_Blaylock_MSG_interview.html#ixzz2P2HtfsJ4

Again, if MSG is so safe, why do food manufacturers hide it on their labels? There is a reason consumers do not want to eat it. It is detrimental to their health. Another problem with MSG is not MSG alone, but its deleterious synergistic effects with other food additives, namely aspartame. Most people who consume MSG also consume lots of aspartame. This study, done in 2012, by Collison KS http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22697049 concludes that The combination of MSG (120 mg/Kgbw/day) and Aspartame elevated body weight, and caused a further increase in fasting blood glucose of 2.3-fold compared to Controls. This is the reality of what it happening in America, most of which cannot be studied and will never be studied. It is too complicated: The synergistic effects of hundreds of food additives and their detrimental effect on human health. For more information, read The Hundred Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald.

Another indirect problematic aspect of MSG consumption is that regular, whole foods taste bland, discouraging their consumption. I see this first hand with my own Husband (I’m shamed to admit)! Because he chows down constantly on cheese puffs, soy sauce soaked fried rice and McDonald’s (all full of MSG). Vegetables and other healthy foods don’t appeal to him. He doesn’t want to eat them. These MSG-laden foods explode with flavor in his mouth, but broccoli does not. This is what is happening all over the world. No one wants to eat bland food. It is ruining people’s palettes in favor of processed, unhealthy food. Frankly, I love that explosion of flavor, too, but this attraction to artificially seasoned and flavored foods is dearly costing people their health.

I hope this explains my point of view: Don’t eat MSG! Why risk it?

10 years ago

Good morning,

I wouldn’t normally comment on an article but, in this case, I just wanted to throw in my tuppence worth.

I personally don’t think nowadays people mindlessly eat foods laden with MSG, there is so much information out there about diets and nutrition – most people have an understanding of what is “good” and what is “bad”. As you say, pretty much all convenience foods/ fast foods are laden with MSG and goodness knows what else. However, these foods also tend to be cheap and readily available. We can buy large bags of MSG here in the supermarket (next to the salt) which I find a little bizarre and access to organic/ MSG free/low sodium foods is sometimes possible but very expensive.

I live in the Middle East and do my best to cook with fresh ingredients but, again, I have to work within the constraints of what is affordable and what is available. Is it possible that this article may scare and overwhelm some readers? You offer up science and research but are you able to offer readily available, cost comparable, healthy alternatives for readers? Probably not, it’s not always that easy unfortunately.

People are bombarded with so much information, it can be confusing, what to eat, what not to eat but I think for regular families, it comes down to what is affordable / available. Maybe a subsequent post could end on a more positive note? A sugar coating always helps a bitter pill to go down ; )