MSG is in more foods than you think
Have you ever eaten a meal, then find you have a headache a few hours later? This used to happen to me all the time until I linked the problem to the food I was eating. Or, specifically, what was in the food I was eating: MSG, or monosodium glutamate.
In her book "Breakthrough: Eight Steps to Wellness," Suzanne Somers interviews Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon and nutritional practitioner. Blaylock devotes his time to nutritional studies and research to better understand the devastating effects chemicals on our heath. He has written several books, including "Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills," "Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life" and "Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients."
In Somers' book, Blaylock referred to glutamate, aspartate and cysteine as "nerve toxins," meaning when human neurons are exposed to these substances, "they become very 'excited' and fire their impulses very rapidly until they reach a state of extreme exhaustion."
Blaylock said the excited neurons die several hours later, "as if the cells were 'excited' to death," which is why neuroscientists refer to the substances as "excitotoxins."
In other words, Blaylock said that MSG kills brain cells.
MSG is the sodium salt of glumatic acid and is used as a flavor-enhancing additive in most processed food, processed meats and fast food. Blaylock said "MSG is a dangerous brain-toxic compound that should not be added to ... any food. MSG is not the only taste-enhancing food additive known to cause damage to the nervous system. There are whole classes of chemicals that can provide similar damage."
If MSG is so bad for us, why is it widely found in foods on grocery store shelves? The answer: taste and money. MSG can make the blandest, cheapest foods taste good. Adding MSG to food can satiate our taste buds — but we pay for this short-term satisfaction with long-term health risks.
MSG has been linked to several disorders including brain cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, brain tumors, allergies, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease. I have met a few folks who have had an asthmatic reaction to MSG.
MSG has gotten such a bad rap that food manufacturers have come up with substitute names to fool us in the ingredients. Beware: MSG can be called hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, yeast extract, sodium caseinate, beef broth, chicken broth, artificial flavor or natural flavor. Even when a package says "contains no MSG," look closely for these other names.
In "Breakthrough," Blaylock said, "Now, what if someone told you that a chemical added to food could cause brain damage in your children, and that this chemical could affect how your children's nervous systems formed during development so that in later years they may have learning or emotional difficulties. How would you feel?" Great question.
I find it disappointing that food manufactures, fast food outlets and conventional grocery stores continue to support and sell products that are knowingly detrimental to our health, all for the sake of profit.
Here are a few rules of thumb to follow to avoid ingesting MSG:
• Read labels — read labels — read labels. Make the time!
• The more processed the food, the more likely the food will contain MSG (remember to look for it listed in the ingredients under one of its alternate names).
• Most soups contain MSG.
• Many dressings, sauces and dips (especially ranch dressing) contain MSG.
• Popular nacho-flavored chips contain MSG as do many other flavored chips.
• Try to avoid fast food.
Why should real food that provides value to our bodies need to have harmful additives to taste good?
Kevin Cotter is managing general partner at New Earth Market in Yuba City.