Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MSG - Part 1 - It's Everywhere

Increasingly, health conscious people believe that MSG is harmful to health. Despite this widespread concern, the culprit in 'Chinese restaurant syndrome' is now being added to more and more foods. In fact, if you eat packaged and restaurant foods, it can be difficult to completely avoid MSG.

In this posting, I'll share about what MSG is and why it is so prevalent in our food supply.
Very few people understand why MSG is harmful. In MSG - Part 2 - Why It Affects You I will explain a bit about how the brain works, and how MSG affects brain function. Then I'll share some things that you can do to protect your brain.

Enhancing Flavor - Can You Eat Just One?

MSG makes foods taste better. It provides a flavor called Umami, savoriness or deliciousness. Makers of restaurant and packaged foods add MSG, because they want us to eat more. They want us to be addicted to their products. Have you ever been able to eat just one potato chip? Particularly the ones covered with that tasty stuff? It's practically impossible, right? Well, what's in the tasty stuff? MSG, probably in multiple forms.

What is MSG? Where Does It Come From?

Monosodium glutamate is the name commonly used for free glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is an amino acid that naturally occurs in proteins. Some free glutamic acid occurs naturally in whole foods that are consumed raw, or are cooked with the methods that people commonly utilize in their homes.

Industrial processes to hydrolyze proteins alter the amino acid structure, producing free glutamic acid in much higher quantities. Hydrolyzed protein always contains free glutamic acid (basically MSG).

MSG is white and granular. It used to be available as Accent in grocery stores.

It's Hidden In Our Packages - Everywhere!

Have you looked at labels and seen hydrolyzed protein? Or soy protein isolate? What about vegetable protein? These innocent-seeming protein ingredients are pervasive throughout processed foods.

It is possible to use chemical processes to significantly reduce the amount of MSG (or glutamic acid) in the final hydrolyzed protein, but the food and chemical companies don't go to that expense. Glutamic acid makes the food taste good, so food companies want us to consume it. They want us to want more . . . and more.

To make the situation worse, the FDA allows manufacturing companies to put deceptive information on labels. Yeast extract and soy protein isolate, for example, always contain free glutamic acid (basically MSG). Bouillon and flavorings usually contain free glutamic acid. When ingredient manufacturers make "natural flavorings" they put in a wide variety of ingredients, and they can even add in MSG.

When the "natural flavorings" ingredient is then included in a food product, "natural flavorings" is shown on the label. None of the individual ingredients contained in the "natural flavorings" are listed. In some cases, it is not even necessary that ingredients including MSG be listed on the label at all.

Do you coffee drinkers know that popular coffee restaurants are rumored to put MSG into their coffee? If it's not actually in the coffee itself - though it could be - it is almost certainly going to be in the flavorings and sweeteners. Maybe that's why people stand in long lines to get their pricey coffee drinks.

Here is an interesting distinction from the Truth in Labeling site. 'If MSG is processed into a product instead of being poured into a product, they declare that there is "no MSG added" or "no added MSG," even though they know full well that the product contains MSG.'

Below are links to a site where you can get lists of ingredients that contain MSG. But make sure you get to my other posting MSG - Part 2 - Why It Affects You for information about how the brain works, and why MSG has such powerful impacts on our bodies.

Truth in Labeling Campaign

This organization is dedicated to education and advocacy about MSG issues.


List of MSG containing ingredients. I highly recommend that you review this comprehensive list, which includes ingredients that often, but do not always contain MSG.

The following ALWAYS contain MSG. Glutamate, glutamic acid, gelatin, calcium caseinate, textured protein, sodium caseinate, yeast nutrient, yeast extract, yeast food, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed corn gluten.

Non-specific ingredient names like seasonings and natural flavorings are very highly likely to contain MSG.

Powdered milk and cheese ingredients are likely to contain MSG. I think powdered eggs are suspicious, as are powdered garlic, onions, and vegetables. 'Organic' foods that contain 'autolyzed yeast' and 'natural flavoring' will contain MSG.

Are you reacting to MSG? This is a list of adverse reactions that people have experienced. I discuss reactions further in MSG - Part 2 - Why It Affects You.

Why do government and industry hide the fact that MSG is in our food?

This link takes to you to a Truth in Labeling page that gives details. To get straight to the point about it, ultimately, it's all about money. Increased sales, lowered costs, and wanting people to be unhealthy, so they will go to the doctor and take more drugs.

The Soy Connection

Hydrolyzed soy protein is added to many packaged foods. Why? First, food producers want you to eat more, and MSG certainly encourages hearty consumption. Second, putting soy protein in foods provides a profitable outlet for the waste that is left over after soy oil is removed from the beans. In a 2007 blog posting, I wrote about Kaayla Daniel's book, The Whole Soy Story. In the book, you learn that soy protein isolate was developed as a product, because soy oil producers had endless amounts of soy protein to dispose of. So they found a way to feed it to us. Very good for them, very bad for us.

Protein powders and protein bars, which people usually eat for their health, are mostly full of soy protein. If they are not soy based, the proteins may still be hydrolyzed and contain MSG.

Read Food Labels!

I did some label-reading research. I found MSG in some places that I was looking for it, and surprisingly, I did not find it in other places. I was encouraged to find that some packaged foods now actually do not contain MSG, at least not in the 'listed' ingredients. What is not listed we just can't identify. I was happy to find that some products actually specifically state "Contains traces of soybeans." In an earlier posting, I wrote about soy. Many people are allergic to soy, so the almost complete removal of soy from some products, and the labeling of products regarding the presence of soy is a big leap forward.

My first research subject was a popular brand of nacho cheese chips. You can't eat just one chip. I include all of the ingredients here, so you can see how processed this food is. Ingredients on the Truth in Labeling ALWAYS CONTAINS MSG list are in BOLD ITALICS CAPS. Ingredients that usually contain MSG are in bold italics.

Nacho cheese chips: selected corn, vegetable oil (sunflower and/or canola oils), seasoning (salt, cheddar cheese, corn maltodextrin, wheat flour, whey, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, buttermilk solids, romano cheese, whey protein concentrate, onion powder, hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn flour, lactose, natural and artificial flavor, dextrose, tomato powder, spices (still suspect, I think), lactic acid, color, citric acid, sugar, garlic powder, red and green bell pepper powder, SODIUM CASEINATE, disodium inosinate (which works with MSG), disodium guanylate (works with MSG), skim milk powder, whey protein isolate, corn syrup solids), calcium hydroxide. So you can see that it's full of the stuff.

For the following products, only the relevant ingredients are listed here.

A popular brand of corn chips seems to be MSG-free, at least from the label.

Semolina pasta seems to be MSG-free, at least from the label.

A popular brand of pasta sauce contains spices, onion powder, garlic powder, and dehydrated parsley (each of which could be suspicious), citric acid, flavor

Wheat crackers contain malt flour, spice extract
A popular brand of cookies contains artificial flavor, dried egg (suspicious)

A popular children's cereal contains natural fruit flavorings. I was actually impressed that this cereal did not contain more overtly MSG ingredients. I hope this means that they have actually improved the quality of the product, though I doubt it. Of course, it is still filled with sweeteners. Another brand of cereals boxes that I looked at did say "Contains traces of soybeans."

A popular brand of bread contains yeast. I am suspicious of some of the ingredients on the label, and wonder what is not on the label. It does definitely contain soy. Soybean oil, defatted soy flour (potential MSG), calcium propionate, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, monoglycerides, sorbic acid. It also contains wheat flour.

What is in my kitchen? My husband's bread contains soy in several forms, and yeast.

A popular "natural" brand of crackers contain spices (suspect), whey, malt extract, cultured buttermilk, SODIUM CASEINATE, maltodextrin, AUTOLYZED YEAST, citric acid, natural flavor.

Ketchup contains natural flavorings.

Bottles of a popular brand of seasoning that is considered healthy used to say "No MSG", but apparently they can't claim that anymore, because it is a soy product and contains isolated soy proteins.
So, that's it. Whew.

Make sure you get to MSG - Part 2 - Why It Affects You.

Educational Presentations About MSG

I give presentations about this and other food- and health-related topics. Feedback that I've received indicates that people take home information that positively impacts their food purchasing patterns. If you are interested in scheduling a presentation for a group, please contact me. sandra@MiracleInspirations.com

MSG - Part 2 - Why It Affects You

On to what happens when we eat the stuff!

You Are What You Eat! Choose Real Food for Health!

Sandra Lynn Lee
Certified Practitioner - The Emotion Code/The Body Code
Certified Healing Codes Practitioner
Miracle Inspirations
Everything in this newsletter is the opinion of the author and is provided for informational and educational purposes only. When information is drawn from outside sources, both credit and access to the source are given, when available.
Copyright 2011 Miracle Inspirations. All rights reserved.

MSG - Part 2 - Why It Affects You

In giving educational presentations about MSG, I have seen that very few people understand why MSG is harmful. In these presentations, I help people understand how the brain works, and how MSG affects brain function. With this knowledge, people frequently feel more compelled to avoid MSG, and they take actions to protect themselves from MSG's damaging effects.

In this posting, I'll share with you some of what I teach in the MSG presentation. (If you are interested in having me present to your group or organization, please contact me. sandra@MiracleInspirations.com)

If you have not read my posting MSG - Part 1 - It's Everywhere, I recommend it. It helps you know how to identify MSG in packaged foods. http://foodmiracles.blogspot.com/2011/05/msg-part-1-its-everywhere.html

Why is MSG in Our Food?

MSG is a flavor enhancer, meaning it makes foods taste good. Food companies and restaurants want us to buy, eat, and buy, so they add chemicals to make us want more, more, and more. MSG and other food additives contribute to people gaining weight.

How MSG Affects People

MSG is toxic to the body's neurological system, though scientists do not completely understood how it works. Go to the Truth in Labeling site for more details. MSG causes a variety of reactions in people who are sensitive to it. Even if you are not noticeably affected, it is probably safe to assume that it has some impact on you, and that over time, any symptoms could become more significant.

On the Truth in Labeling list of reactions that people have had to MSG are cardiac, circulatory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, muscular, neurological, visual, respiratory, urological, genital, and skin reactions. At this moment, the only body parts that I can think of that aren't on this list are hair and bones. So perhaps your hair and bones are safe from MSG exposure. But then I wouldn't count on that, because if you aren't healthy overall, then your hair and bones won't be either. Your nervous system is important for the functioning of every cell.

Aspartame Too

The artificial sweetener Aspartame (or Nutrasweet) has basically the same effects as MSG/glutamate. And even more negative effects. (Aspartame is believed to contribute to cancer, headaches, diabetes, seizures, and blindness.) Avoid it. Aspartate is primarily used in beverages, sugar replacements, and diet foods. Basically, avoid all of the artificial sweeteners. It's too much to get into here.

Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills

In this book, respected neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock explains how MSG and Aspartame damage the nervous system. Almost literally from the beginning to the end of this book, I was exclaiming in horror with each turn of the page. For many years, I have avoided buying foods that contain MSG, because I had heard and read enough to know that it is harmful. But until I read Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, I didn't really understand. Well now I know, and it's ever so much worse than I dreamed was possible.

In this blog, I give some brief simplified details about what Blaylock explains in extraordinary depth. Though he conveys a tremendous amount of information, this book is still relatively understandable for the average person to read. He wants everyone to comprehend the importance of this material. I was actually quite surprised at how quickly I finished the book, because it is so easily understood.

Using clearly written text and line drawings, Blaylock first explains how the brain works. He then explains how excitotoxins interfere with the normal functioning of the brain, and how they contribute to the development of degenerative conditions of the brain and spinal cord. Every person can be affected by this, from conception to death.

Why Read the Book?

Alzheimer's Disease
, Parkinson's Disease, and Lou Gehrig's Disease.

That's why. Reading the book will help you avoid having those wonderful conditions to look forward to in your personal future. Do you need another reason? How about protecting the healthy development and future lives of your children and grandchildren.

Eating MSG and Aspartame can kill brain cells. Do you and your children need your brains?

So, here I go. I am vastly simplifying here. Blaylock does a much better job of explaining all this in the book. Before I read the book, I knew none of this.

Why Are MSG and Aspartame So Dangerous?

MSG is a form of glutamate. Aspartame is a form of aspartate. When glutamate and aspartate are added in large quantities to the foods that we eat, the concentrations of these substances can then be dramatically increased in the brain.

Glutamate and Aspartate are amino acids (protein components) that are used as neurotransmitters (communicating molecules) by the brain and to a lesser degree, by the spinal cord. The body's highest concentrations of circulating glutamate are in the brain, because the brain needs it to function. The brain has several mechanisms for very carefully controlling the concentration of circulating glutamate.

What happens in the brain when glutamate is present? To shorten into a few sentences whole sections of the book, glutamate causes nerve cells, or neurons to fire repeatedly. This is part of how the brain develops and functions normally.

All of the glutamate that the brains needs can be obtained through the consumption of normal, whole-food proteins.

When MSG is consumed in foods, the amount of glutamate circulating in the blood stream and in the brain can be very dramatically increased. Even small fluctuations in the concentration can disrupt brain function. With sufficient duration and/or concentration of glutamate in the brain, the neurons die. Basically, the neurons are excited to death. That is why glutamate is called an excitotoxin.

Not all neurons use glutamate as neurotransmitters. It is primarily glutamate-using neurons that die as a result of excessive excitotoxin exposure. Non-glutamate neurons will survive even when glutamate neurons right next to them have died.

Aspartate is an excitotoxin that affects the same neurons in the brain as glutamate, so for the sake of simplicity, I mention only glutamate.

The Brain's Protection Mechanisms

Because the concentration of circulating glutamate is so critical for normal brain function, the brain has several ways in which it keeps this concentration under control.

This is the brain's first level of defense, keeping out most of the glutamate that is circulating in the blood from food sources. However, numerous conditions can make the blood brain barrier ineffective in performing this protective function. That makes these conditions risk factors for increased susceptibility to excitotoxin damage.

Risk Factors for Increased Excitotoxin Exposure and Damage:
- Head impacts
- Strokes
- Hypertension
- Brain tumors
- Infections
- Increased core body temperature and Fevers


There are a couple of pumping systems in the brain that protect against excitotoxin damage. One pumps out excess glutamate. The other would require too much explanation to go into here.

An important piece of information about these pumps is that they require a lot of energy. Energy in the body primarily comes from glucose. When glucose is low, then energy is low.

When energy is low, the pumps stop working. This results in increased glutamate concentrations and increased damage to neurons. Therefore anything that results in low glucose levels is a risk factor.

Risk Factors for Increased Excitotoxin Exposure and Damage:
- Hypoglycemia
- Anything that increases your usage of energy, thereby depleting the supply of glucose
- - Injury. The body consumes a lot of energy in repairing the damage.
- - Illness. The same as above.
- - Excitotoxin exposure. This makes the pumps work, using up a lot of energy.
- - Exercise. Exercise is healthy, but it does deplete energy reserves. When you consume foods and drinks during or after exercise, any excitotoxins in them will be more likely to enter your brain and damage neurons. Do your sports drinks contain aspartame or MSG??

Babies and Children

The developing brains of children require glutamate. Many neurons require glutamate to function and to build new nerve connections. I won't go into all of the details here. It is this section of Blaylock's book that I found most horrifying, because of the devastating impact that excitotoxins have on neural development. Until the late 1960's MSG was added in large amounts to baby foods. And when pregnant mothers consume food and drink containing glutamate and aspartate, it goes to the baby.

Suffice it to say that for an assortment of reasons, babies, both in utero and after birth, and children are more susceptible to damage to their developing brains than are adults.

Depending on when the exposure occurs, glutamate and aspartate can severely impair the development of the endocrine system. The endocrine system controls all of the body's functions, so when its formation is impacted, a whole host of malfunctions can occur, including but not limited to delayed development, learning disorders, autism, and psychological conditions.

Does it make sense that if something kills brain cells, you don't give it to babies and children, with their developing brains?

Avoid MSG and Aspartame (Nutrasweet) if you are pregnant. (Since other artificial sweeteners are also suspected of having negative impacts, consider avoiding them too.)

Avoid giving glutamate and aspartate containing foods and drinks to children, INCLUDING TEENS.
Unfortunately, many packaged foods, including baby foods, are likely to contain hidden forms of MSG. For more information about this, read my posting MSG - Part 1 - It's Everywhere.

Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's Diseases
and other Degenerative Neurological Conditions

Excitotoxins are not the sole factor that results in individuals developing these conditions. But excitotoxins are significant contributors. Depending on each individual person's particular genetic makeup, lifestyle and diet, incidence of injury, and state of health, the likelihood of developing these conditions varies. These conditions are different in how they manifest physically because they each have specific areas of the brain or spinal cord where nerve degeneration has occurred.

In all of these conditions, the neurons that are affected use glutamate as a neurotransmitter.

80-90% of neurons have to die before the individual will experience symptoms of disease.

So by the time you have a diagnosable condition, the degeneration of neurons has been occurring for many years, perhaps even beginning in utero and in childhood.

Obviously it is much more complex than this. Multiple chapters in Russell Blaylock's book are dedicated to addressing these conditions.

Protecting Yourself

Does it make sense to minimize your exposure to MSG and Aspartame, knowing that they can kill brain cells? Stop eating excitotoxins now, and you can slow or prevent future degeneration. However this is not always possible. Personally, I do still occasionally eat in restaurants, and I do consume some packaged foods.

Next, I'll discuss how to avoid excitotoxins, followed by other actions you can take to protect yourself when you do consume them.
Eat Whole Fresh Foods!

Of course, making your own food from fresh whole ingredients is always best! But when that isn't a viable option, it's valuable to know how to make intelligent choices.

Avoiding Excitotoxins

Some food ingredients contain both glutamate and aspartate, and potentially other excitotoxins. As a general rule, Aspartame is primarily contained in beverages, sugar replacements, and diet foods. And MSG/glutamate/glutamic acid is in just about everything else. So if you 1) avoid the types of foods and beverages that tend to contain Aspartame, and 2) avoid anything that you suspect contains MSG, you will be pretty safe. It is difficult to completely avoid added excitotoxins if you 1) eat any packaged foods, and if you 2) eat in restaurants.

If you minimize your excitotoxin intake, your body's natural protection mechanisms may be able to take care of the rest, minimizing future damage. If you want to take additional protective measures, including those mentioned below, then you will do even better.

If you have not read my posting MSG - Part 1 - It's Everywhere, I recommend it. It helps you know how to identify MSG in packaged foods. http://foodmiracles.blogspot.com/2011/05/msg-part-1-its-everywhere.html

Protective Actions

As mentioned above, when your body's energy supplies become depleted, you are more susceptible to excitotoxin damage. So when you are low in blood sugar, be particularly vigilant in avoiding excitotoxins.

Some foods and nutritional supplements offer nutrients that help your brain protect itself. I won't go into further details of how they are protective here.

Magnesium and antioxidants help your brain protect itself. So eat foods rich in magnesium and antioxidants, and take supplements. If you want more information about how important magnesium is to health, go to Magnesium is Critical. http://foodmiracles.blogspot.com/2011/06/magnesium-is-critical.html

Educational Presentation About MSG

I give presentations about this and other food- and health-related topics. Feedback that I've received indicates that people take home information that positively impacts their food purchasing patterns. If you are interested in scheduling a presentation for a group, please contact me. sandra@MiracleInspirations.com

Protect Your Brain Function!

Sandra Lynn Lee
Certified Practitioner - The Emotion Code/The Body Code
Certified Healing Codes Practitioner
Miracle Inspirations
Everything in this newsletter is the opinion of the author and is provided for informational and educational purposes only. When information is drawn from outside sources, both credit and access to the source are given, when available.
Copyright 2011 Miracle Inspirations. All rights reserved.