by Andreece Williams
What do McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, flavored Pringles Potato Chips, Pizza Hut’s signature Chicken Wings and your favorite flavored Instant Ramen Noodles have in common? Apart from being American dietary staples (and the preferred choices of a multitude of college students), they all contain MSG, a food additive that may be silently hurting our population.
Precisely what is MSG? An acronym for Monosodium Glutamate, it is defined as a white, crystalline compound used as a food additive to enhance flavor. More recognizably, you may have seen it carefully disguised on food labeling by manufacturers as “artificial flavoring”.
According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon and author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills,” MSG is an excitotoxin, meaning it has the ability to overexcite cells within your body to the point of excessive damage or death. The regular consumption of MSG may potentially lead to brain damage, obesity, eye damage, depression, or worse: it can also trigger or worsen disabilities ranging from Alzheimer’s to Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Even the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is aware of the effects MSG has on the body. They have released a list of “short-term” related symptoms called “MSG Symptom Complex,” which includes numbness, burning sensation, tingling, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain or difficulty breathing, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness and weakness. These symptoms may occur within one hour of consuming 3 or more grams of MSG.
Studies in the 1970’s suggested the possibility that 25 to 30 percent of people may have an intolerance to MSG. Since those studies were conducted, the prevalence of MSG in food has substantially increased, bringing the previous estimation up to nearly 40 percent of possibly impacted consumers.
How does one determine the presence of MSG in their food? Because manufacturers have cleverly caught on to the fact that most consumers probably wouldn’t purchase their product if they were aware of the dangerous additives inside, they have changed the way foods containing it are labeled.
A short list of ingredients that incorporate MSG are Autolyzed Yeast Calcium Caseinate Gelatin, Glutamate Glutamic Acid Hydrolyzed Protein, Monopotassium Glutamate Monosodium Glutamate Sodium Caseinate, Textured Protein Yeast Extract Yeast Food and Yeast Nutrient. One should also attempt to avoid most poultry flavorings, soy sauces, protein fortified items, overly-pasteurized foods and most broths.
Despite studies showing negative effects of MSG on the body, the FDA has allowed it to remain labeled as “Generally Recognized as Safe,” or GRAS, since the year 1959. This gives processed food manufacturers lots of leeway and little to no incentive to create healthier products for consumers.
Therefore, it is ultimately up to the consumer to trade the convenience of addictive unhealthy foods for unprocessed, natural ones. While living MSG-free does take effort and dedication, an extra 10 minutes in the kitchen is probably more preferable to a 10 year reduction in life expectancy.