If you’ve heard someone mention “MSG,” chances are they’re talking about monosodium glutamate.
It’s a chemical compound made from combining sodium and glutamic acid, which is found naturally in many foods like tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, spinach, and celery.
But it’s also commonly added to processed foods like soups, sauces, and salad dressings – making it easy for people to accidentally consume too much.
Here’s what you need to know about MSG.
What is MSG?
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a type of excitatory amino acid (EAA).
EAA refers to a group of chemicals that help stimulate the brain and nervous system.
Some of the most well-known EAA include glutamate, aspartate, glycine, alanine, cysteine, and taurine.
What are the potential side effects of MSG?
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t determined whether MSG is safe for consumption, a number of studies have shown that consuming large amounts of MSG may cause health problems.
One study published in The Journal of Nutrition reported that rats who consumed MSG developed an autoimmune disease called experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE), which causes inflammation and swelling in the white matter of the central nervous system.
Another study published in Toxicology Letters found that rats who ate more than 1,000 milligrams of MSG every day for two weeks experienced liver damage.
Another study published in Environmental Health Perspectives concluded that rats given high-dose levels of MSG had significantly lower body weights compared to those fed low doses.
And yet another study published in the journal Food & Function found that mice who were fed excessive amounts of MSG experienced decreased appetite, weight loss, and a reduction in their metabolic rate.
Many of these adverse reactions aren’t severe, but they can still be concerning.
If you’re concerned about how your diet may affect your health, talk to your doctor before adding MSG to your diet.
Are there any benefits to MSG?
As mentioned, EAA are important neurotransmitters that help regulate our bodies’ functions.
They’re also involved in the production of certain hormones such as serotonin and melatonin.
In addition, MSG has been shown to enhance the taste of various foods.
So if you want to make a dish using a particular ingredient and don’t have time to cook it yourself, you might consider adding MSG to increase its flavor.
However, this isn’t always beneficial. In fact, some research suggests that MSG could actually decrease your enjoyment of certain foods.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that women who ate a meal containing MSG rated it as less tasty than women who didn’t eat MSG.
Similarly, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that MSG reduced the palatability of broccoli soup.
How is MSG used in food?
Most of the research regarding MSG’s safety has focused on the way it’s used in processed foods.
As far back as 1876, researchers noticed that when MSG was mixed with water, it caused droplets of moisture to form on the surface of the solution.
This phenomenon is known as crystallization.
The FDA regulates the use of MSG by manufacturers, and it requires them to list the amount of MSG used in each product.
However, because the FDA doesn’t require companies to disclose the specific ingredients in their products, it’s difficult to determine exactly how much MSG is present in a product.
What are some common foods that contain MSG?
Some of the most popular commercial brands of MSG are Accent Flavor Enhancer, Gourmet Glutamates, and Chef Secret.
Other popular varieties include Accent Flavor Concentrate, Chef Secret Select, and Chef Secret Ultra.
You’ll find MSG in various types of processed food including canned soups, salad dressing, and snack foods.
In fact, one survey of 2,100 adults conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that 73 percent of respondents said they’d eaten MSG at least once during the previous year.
How can I avoid MSG?
Since MSG is often hidden in products we buy everyday, it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate it from our diets.
However, it’s possible to reduce your exposure to MSG by reading labels carefully and choosing foods that are free of additives.
For example, since MSG is often added to canned soups, you should look for brands that either don’t list MSG on the label or list it in smaller quantities.
You should also seek out brands that offer a variety of vegetables and meats rather than just chicken or beef.
Finally, you can ask for dishes prepared without MSG and watch for signs of cross contamination when eating out.
Should I be worried about MSG?
It’s unlikely that MSG will cause serious harm to your health, but it’s not recommended that you overconsume it.
That being said, you shouldn’t feel bad if you occasionally mistake it for salt.
What do experts say about MSG?
When it comes to MSG, the scientific consensus seems to be that it’s safe for most people to consume small amounts of the substance.
According to the World Health Organization, there’s no evidence that MSG poses a risk to human health.
The organization states that there haven’t been enough studies done to determine whether MSG affects humans in the same way it does animals.
What are some alternative ways to add flavor to food?
If you’re looking for ways to improve the taste of meals without using MSG, you have plenty of options.
You can try using different kinds of herbs and spices instead of MSG.
Or you can try using dried fruits, citrus zest, or vanilla extract.
Pork belly sliders are a delicious, hearty snack that you can enjoy any time of day.
They’re also a great way to use up your leftover pulled pork or ribs, and they’re very easy to make.
Here’s how you can create these delicious treats at home.
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