Is MSG Really Toxic? Find Out The Truth!
MSG has always been defamed in the health community. There are claims that it causes headaches, asthma and even brain damage. However, bodies like FDA claim that MSG is safe. So, let us get into the details and find out what is true!
MSG- what it is?
MSG is an abbreviation for monosodium glutamate. It is a very common food additive which is used to enhance flavour. You will find it as E621 in processed food products. MSG is derived from glutamic acid, one of the most abundant amino acids present in nature. Glutamate is a non-essential amino acid that the human body is able to produce. It has several functions to perform in the human body. It is found in almost all foods.
MSG is white in colour and similar in appearance to salt or sugar. Monosodium glutamate is made by the fermentation of starches. However, there is no chemical difference between glutamate in natural food and glutamate in MSG.
MSG is known to enhance the meaty umami flavour of foods. Umami is the 5th basic taste sensed by humans apart from salty, sour, bitter and sweet. It is used a lot in Asian cooking and in many processed foods in the western world.
Why is MSG considered to be harmful?
Glutamate works as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It excites the nerve cells to relay signals. People claim that having MSG results in excessive glutamate in the brain that causes excessive stimulation of the nerve cells. Studies have been done in this regard. A neurosurgeon even said in his book that the glutamate of MSG can kill nerve cells including the ones in the brain. It is true that the brain can get harmed by increased activity of glutamate. However, dietary glutamate has very little or no effect on the brain. There is no evidence that MSG when consumed in normal amounts is harmful.
Certain individuals can be sensitive to MSG
Some people have adverse effects after consuming MSG and they are as follows:
- Muscle tightness
- Weakness and flushing.
Studies have been done to find more about it. MSG sensitivity is real and occurs when a person consumes 3 g of MSG in a one meal. But please note that 3 g is a very large dose, around six times larger than the average intake in a day. MSG has also been linked to asthma attacks. In one study large doses of MSG made 13 out 32 individuals experience an asthma attack whereas in other studies, no direct relation was found between MSG intake and asthma.
MSG affects total calorie intake
Some foods are more satiating than others. When you eat foods that are satiating, your calorie intake will reduce and you may lose weight. Some studies say that MSG, which offers the taste of umami, has such an effect. However, there are other studies that say that consuming MSG increases caloric intake 😛 So, things are not very clear yet!
Does MSG cause obesity or metabolic disorders?
Right from the start MSG has been linked to weight gain. It has been tested on mice and they became obese on being injected with high doses. However, this is not relevant to the dietary consumption of MSG in humans. Other studies have also been done. Some show a connection between weight gain and MSG while others do not. One study on humans showed a hike in blood pressure on being given unrealistically high doses. So, there is nothing conclusive about the link between obesity and MSG consumption.
Is MSG safe or not?
This one is tricky! The answer to that depends on whom you ask, one person may say that it is 100% safe and another may say that it is a toxin for the brain. This is usually the case in the nutrition world. The truth hangs somewhere in between the two extremes.
Evidence suggests that MSG is quite safe when consumed in moderate amounts. But huge doses (6 to 30 times the average daily intake) can be harmful.
Simply avoid it if it is affecting you adversely. If you can tolerate it well, then there is no reason to avoid it. MSG is mostly found in processed food and you shouldn’t be indulging much in all that! If you eat real and balanced food, your MSG intake will also be low by default.
What do you feel after reading this post? Is MSG Really Toxic?
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