"Before you dive face first into your Peking duck, listen up. A recent study out of the University of North Carolina cites what animal studies have hinted at for years: MSG (aka monosodium glutamate) could be a factor in weight gain. The study focused on 750 Chinese men and women, ages 40-59, living in 3 rural villages in north and south China. Those participants who used the highest amounts of MSG had nearly 3 times the incidence of overweight as those who did not use MSG, even when physical activity, total caloric intake, and other possible explanations for body mass differences were taken into account.
We all know of someone who has had a bad reaction to MSG; in fact it's suggested that 25- 30% of all Americans suffer some sort of effect from MSG (e.g., palpitations and migraine headaches), and as many as 30 percent are extra sensitive to it if they consume more than 5 grams at one sitting! Unfortunately, these facts haven't seemed to slow down the food industry one bit. Americans consumed about 1 million pounds of MSG in 1950, and today that number has increased by a factor of 300!
So what exactly is monosodium glutamate? MSG is a flavor enhancer in foods--some believe it may even provide a fifth basic taste sensation (in addition to sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), what the Japanese call "umami" (roughly translated as "tastiness"). It is considered an "excitotoxin," since its action in the body is to excite neurotransmitters (important brain chemicals), causing nerve cells to discharge and also exciting nerves related to taste. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes MSG as "naturally occurring," and has it on the GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list. However, studies have shown that when MSG was ingested by lab rats, the hypothalamic regulation of the appetite was damaged by MSG, causing them to double their intake of food and triple their intake of fluids! Given these studies, as well as the prevalence of side effects reported, no amount of MSG appears to be a safe amount.
Eliminating MSG from the diet is much easier said than done, since there's no list of MSG-safe foods in existence. Start by reading the ingredient list; but understand that there will still be many foods that have MSG hidden inside other ingredients in the list (even products labeled "no MSG added" can still contain these hidden sources). Likely culprits include seasonings, flavor packets that you add to tacos, stews, soups, gravies, roasts, dips, etc., and canned soups and noodle packets. Anything that is expected to have a long shelf life is likely to include MSG in it.
Your best bet is to go organic and make things from scratch. Stick with whole foods that look pretty much the way they do when you pluck them from the ground. Avoid canned, boxed, bottled and frozen ANYTHING. Unless you are packaging your own foods, you have no clue what's in there!"
© 2009 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. JJ Virgin, PHD, CNS is a celebrity health and nutrition expert, author, public speaker and media personality. She is internationally recognized as the creator of the Weight Loss Resistance Revolution™ and trains other health care professionals in her program. She is the president of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, http://www.nanp.org/.If you are frustrated with your body and feel like nothing you are doing is working, take her free quiz "Are You Weight Loss Resistant?" at http://www.jjvirgin.com/ and receive her monthly LEANzine loaded with insider information on fighting fat and getting lean for life!
Please be aware that processed organic food-can in fact contain MSG.