Food additives are substances that are put in food to improve its taste, appearance or to prolong its shelf life. Common examples of food additives include nutritional fortifications, food coloring, flavor enhancers, sweeteners and preservatives. As the public becomes more attentive to healthy eating, these substances are continuously being brought under the microscope to be examined for safety and medical side effects. Many have been found to cause health hazards. One of the most notorious of these is MSG. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer that is produced by ionizing the naturally occurring amino acid, glutamate. When added to food, MSG tricks your tongue receptors into thinking that the food you are eating is very rich in taste.
Since its isolation and patent in 1907, MSG has gained rapid popularity, especially in Asian cuisines. That is, until it became apparent that MSG is toxic to your body. Studies have proven that MSG can cause significant damage to your brain as well as your endocrine systems.
Neurotoxicity of MSG
MSG has been classified as an excitotoxin. It has been shown to cause severe damage to your brain and nerve cells. The most immediate response of MSG is the burning, tingling or over-drying feeling left in your mouth. More severe effects include blurred vision, burning and numbness sensation on the skin, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, chest pains and retinal degeneration.
MSG has also been shown to have a number of ill psychological effects. It causes damage to the part of your brain that controls your sleep cycles, and can lead to insomnia. It can also change your temperament, and make you feel agitated, depressed and unable to concentrate. Prolonged intake of MSG can increase your risks for memory loss, depression, schizophrenia and also contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.
MSG is also known to cause damage to your endocrine glands and your pancreas. It has adverse effects on growth, development of reproductive organs, and can also lead to gross obesity. In fact, MSG has been banned from baby foods because children who ingest it have stunted growth and are highly likely to develop learning disabilities, such as ADHD. MSG intake during pregnancy or lactation can also inhibit fetal growth and development.
What You Can Do to Avoid MSG
Since food manufactures are aware that more people are alarmed about MSG, they have come up with a number of alternative labels to keep you from noticing. Even products that are clearly labeled “no MSG added” may contain MSG. If you read the ingredients list of the product, any mention of “glutamate,” “hydrolyzed protein,” “yeast extract” or “natural flavoring” may all indicate MSG. In fact, MSG is practically found in every canned, bottled or prepackaged food, including dressings, sauces, soups, broths, bouillons, frozen meals and deli meats.
To truly avoid MSG, you need to pay close attention to the details in the ingredients’ list of your purchases. It’s also a good idea to stay away from processed foods and prepare your own meals from scratch. These steps may be time consuming, but in the long run they will be invaluable to your health.