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Does monosodium glutamate (MSG) harm the food in any way?

Q: I need to know regarding the amount of MSG in junkfoods and its effects on the taste. Do you know any methods in extracting MSG from junkfoods and measuring the amount?

A:This amino acid brings out the flavour in many foods. While that may sound like a treat for taste buds, the use of MSG allows companies to reduce the amount of real ingredients in their foods, such as chicken in chicken soup. In the 1960s, it was discovered that large amounts of MSG fed to infant mice destroyed nerve cells in the brain. After that research was publicised, public pressure forced baby-food companies to stop adding MSG to their products Ironically, in baby food it was used to make the foods taste better to parents. Some people are sensitive to MSG. Reactions include headache, nausea, weakness, and burning sensation in the back of neck and forearms. Some people complain of wheezing, changes in heart rate, and difficulty breathing. Some people are sensitive to very small amounts of MSG, but it is difficult to determine just how little MSG can cause a reaction in the most-sensitive people. MSG sensitive people have reported reactions to soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners and cosmetics that contain hidden MSG. Excess MSG has also been linked to an acute condition called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, named after symptoms commonly experienced by persons consuming restaurant food. The symptoms include numbness, palpatations, weakness, headaches, sleep problems, abdominal pains and cramps, change in vision, etc. To protect the public’s health, manufacturers and restaurateurs should use less or no MSG and the amounts of MSG should be listed on labels of foods that contain significant amounts. People who believe they are sensitive to MSG should be aware that other ingredients, such as natural flavouring and hydrolysed vegetable protein, also contain glutamate. Also, foods such as Parmesan cheese and tomatoes contain glutamate that occurs naturally. MSG is listed on the label only if it is a separate ingredient in the food. In most cases, MSG is hidden by including it as part of other ingredients on the label. It can make up as much as 60% of these other ingredients. Hidden sources of MSG: (look for these ingredients on labels) Glutamate, Calcium caseinaate, Sodium caseinate, Gelatin, Modified food starch, Hydrolysed vegetable protein, Hydrolysed protein, Hydrolysed oat flour,Textured protein, Natural flavoring, Yeast extract, Yeast food, Autolysed yeast, Yeast nutrient. Anything fermented, anything ultra pasteurised, Barley Malt, Carrageenan, Plant protein extract, Potassium glutamate, Soy protein, Whey protein when processed with high heat, Malt extract, Malt Flavouring, Bouillon, Broth, Stock, Flavouring, Natural Flavouring, Natural Beef or Chicken Flavouring, Seasoning, Spices. Drinks, candy, and chewing gum are also potential sources of hidden MSG. Natural food stores are fond of telling customers that their products do not contain synthetic MSG, only natural MSG. Do not buy it! Read the labels, even in natural food stores. When hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP) is concentrated to 99% glutamic acid, it can officially be called MSG. If it is 50%, 75%, or 98% glutamic acid, it is just as bad (or maybe worse) because it contains an unnaturally high concentration of free glutamic acid and other excitotoxins due to the intense manufacturing process. It is anything but natural. You can learn more from the following books: 1. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.Health Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, c1994, ISBN 0-929173-14-7. One of the best books available on excitotoxins. 2. In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome by George R. Schwartz, M.D. or Articles: 1. The MSG Controversy/MSG Cautions Advised/Monosodium Glutamate Chinese Restaurant Syndrome March/April 1994 issue, Informed Consent Magazine 2. How Safe Is Your Artificial Sweetener? Part Three: Book Review - Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills November/December 1994 issue Informed Consent Magazine 3. MSG: The Truth & Consequences by Jack L. Samuels and Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D Search For Health Magazine, September/October 1993 issue You could contact Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, Karnataka - 570 020, India. The contact at CFTRI would be: Head: TTBD, CFTRI, Mysore - 570 020, India. Ph: + 91 - 821 - 2514534 Fax: + 91 - 821 - 2515453 E-mail: ttm@cscftri.ren.nic.in

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