The Trouble With MSG

AjiNoMoto - msgYou’ve no doubt heard of MSG. It’s that stuff you find in Chinese food, right? Well, maybe. But there’s much more to it than that.

I’m interested in MSG because I develop a bad migraine whenever I consume anything with MSG in it. It’s never anything I do by choice, but I always know when I’ve done it. And it usually means that I’m incapacitated for the remainder of that day.

There are other reactions. A friend told me of her recent encounter with MSG. She and her hubby were running errands and they stopped at a convenience store for a snack. Soon she had a case of the giggles, followed by being unable to focus and then she became very tired. Her hubby had difficulty in concentrating. They checked the label on the snack food and, sure enough, it contained MSG.

What exactly is MSG?

MSG – aka monosodium glutamate – is used as a flavor enhancer. It functions as a flavor enhancer, allowing restaurants and food manufacturers to use less and have it taste like more.

Ok, but what is it, really? Monosodium glutamate comes from the amino acid Glutamic Acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, but, MSG is a man-made food additive.

MSG was invented in Japan in 1908. The inventor and a partner formed the company Ajinomoto, now the largest MSG producer in the world. You may not have heard of the company because no one really goes to the store to buy MSG. At least not in this country. In Asian countries, it is advertised heavily. According to Wikipedia, Ajinomoto is also the world’s largest producer of Aspartame, with a 40 percent market share. My father was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and I can still remember their commercials on local television.

What’s so bad about MSG?

It’s difficult to talk about MSG without also talking about aspartate. Aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in NutraSweet, is a form of aspartate. MSG and aspartate are amino acids that are also known as excitatory neurotransmitter or excitotoxins.

From the book, The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., an excitotoxin is

one of a group of substances, usually acidic amino acids, that in high amounts react with specialized receptors in the brain, causing destruction of certain types of neurons.

Glutamate (found in MSG) and aspartate (found in aspartame)

are two powerful amino acids that act as neurotransmitters in the brain in very small concentrations, . . . In higher concentrations as food additives, these chemicals constantly stimulate brain cells and can cause them to undergo a process of cell death known as excitotoxicity – the cells are excited to death.

What this says is that MSG and aspartate can actually kill brain cells. And, for the record, you cannot grow new brain cells. When they’re gone, they’re gone. That doesn’t sound like anything you want going on in your brain, right? And what about the developing brains of children?

Dr. Dean also says:

A growing number of neurosurgeons and neurologists are convinced that excitotoxins play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders, including migraines, seizures, learning disorders in children, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

If you Google MSG or Aspartame, you’ll find more links than you could ever read in your lifetime. There is some controversy over the dangers of these two additives although I suspect that the powerful lobbies of companies producing and using them play a part in that. Here are a couple of other articles:
Aspartame: What You Don’t know can hurt you

MSG: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets

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