Tuesday, March 6, 2012


WHOA.  I've been doing some research on MSG and my mind is officially blown.

I recently fell in love with a product called Complete Seasoning by Badia.  It's tastes SO GOOD that I didn't care that MSG was listed on the label.  As the old saying goes  "You're gonna die from something!". I've already eliminated all the big bad wolves from my diet so why not just throw a little MSG in the pot?

Here's why not:

A.  Until last week I thought MSG was something in a spice shaker at The Chinese Palace or The Jade Garden.  I have always associated it with Chinese food OR salt seasonings.  Little did I know that MSG masquerades under 25 different names as a food additive and is contained in almost everything in my pantry.

B.  The government says that MSG is safe for human consumption.  I don't need to go on here, do I?  OK, I will.  Just please google MSG studies and read for yourself.   In addition to the headaches that so many people associate with the MSG in Chinese food, there are numerous symptoms associated with MSG.  If anyone you know is suffering from a combination of symptoms that seem to baffle the doctors, you might want to start looking under the MSG rock for a proper diagnosis.

C.  When scientists study obesity in lab rats, they have to fatten them artificially because rats are not naturally fat.  How do they make the rats fat against their will?  They inject them with MSG from birth.  Fat rats are actually referred to as MSG Treated Rats.  MSG in rats produces three times as much insulin via their pancreas.  Increased insulin leads to obesity that has nearly nothing to do with what the rats eat.   WOW.  Do you think there could possibly be a relationship to our country's obesity epidemic and all of the MSG (by any name) that's in our food?

D.  One scientist referred to MSG as "The nicotine of food additives".  MSG is so popular by food manufacturers because WE LOVE IT.  We get addicted to it.  In the wikipedia definition of MSG, it states that MSG creates the "Umami" or sixth type of taste.  Not only do we love saying UMAMI, we love eating it!   Embarrassing but true, after I'd been using Complete Seasoning on damn near everything for a week, I started licking it out of my hand.  I couldn't tell enough people how much I loved it.   If I could've hired a skywriter - I would have.   This is an easy addiction for someone who adores salty and savory foods.

Here is the list of ingredients that ALWAYS contain MSG.  There are another 20 or so that ALMOST always contain MSG and a further list of additives that are suspected of containing MSG.  You can print the full list here and take it to the grocery store with you.

Glutamic acid (E 620)2,  Glutamate (E 620)
Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
Calcium glutamate (E 623)
Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
Natrium glutamate
Yeast extract
Anything “hydrolyzed”
Any “hydrolyzed protein”
Calcium caseinate,  Sodium caseinate
Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
Autolyzed yeast
Textured protein
Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
Soy protein isolate
Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
Whey protein isolate
Anything “…protein”

I urge you to please print the whole list, go to your panty and start flippin' cans and packages.  This is freaking me out!  I found it in soups, sauces, dressings, seasonings, canned beans and my falafel mix.  Granted, I don't have a HUGE pantry because it's just the two of us but... it's enough to be able to extrapolate the amount in a family sized pantry.

Avoiding MSG at Chinese restaurants is obviously a wise choice, but how much are you consuming without even knowing it?

Epilogue:  I've broken up with Complete Seasoning and started a new relationship with a spicy seasoning called Slap Yo Mama!   No offense mom... you know I love you!

Please also see my follow up post - MSGeeez2 - it's a quicky!

I am not a doctor or scientist.  I write this blog only in the hopes that you will do your own research.  I don't list reference sites because I'm lazy.  Do your digging and come to your own conclusions - I am just  the spark.


  1. Hey Lauren, a friend's FB post led me here. Free glutamate, such as MSG, is found naturally in basically every protein-containing food -- ripe tomatoes, potatoes, cheeses, meats, etc. The research has been pretty clear in showing that dietary MSG has no correllation with the kinds of symptoms that have come to be called MSG Symptom Complex. This isn't suprising given that any protein we consume is broken down into its constituent amino acids or short oligopeptides before it can be absorbed by our bodies.

  2. Hi Jamie, Thanks for your input! If you take a look at my follow up from this morning, you'll see my thoughts on the "protein" portion of naturally occurring MSG. Literally.. that is what it is! My concern is with the other 20 ways it's added to our food. This is a hot issue and I come down on the side of people at least being aware of what words to look for on the ingredient list. Hopefully I can put my dollars behind products that don't ADD that which is not natural - for example... I will still drink a protein shake (and the free glutamate contained in the amino chain) but I can be sure it the powder doesn't contain any of the other names for MSG listed in the ingredients.

    Again, thanks for your information - I really appreciate it!

  3. Hi Lauren, me again. I should also point out that your list of things that "always contain MSG" isn't really all that accurate either. I can't fault you for it, though, because you'll see this same list all over the first few pages of Google hits on the topic. There's a lot of misinformation out there.

    Not MSG:
    Calcium glutamate (E 623)
    Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
    Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
    Natrium glutamate
    Calcium caseinate, Sodium caseinate
    Textured protein
    Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
    Soy protein isolate
    Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
    Whey protein isolate
    Anything “…protein”

    The first handful would belong on the list if you were to expand the definition of the list to include any free glutamate sources, rather than just MSG per se. This is entirely appropriate too, as MSG and other glutamate salts are ionically-bound. So as soon as they hit the aqueous environment of your mouth and gut the salt and amino acid dissociate. All of the proteins, though, really don't belong on a list like this because their extraction and purification doesn't generally entail any processing steps that would free the glutamate from its protein chains. You'd need some sort of acid hydrolysis or peptidase step to expect this to happen to any significant degree, but those aren't typical in these processes.

    You might enjoy this article; it isn't absolutely correct on every point, but it takes an accessible, common sense approach to the issue that most people can appreciate:


    For what it's worth, I agree that people should be informed about the things that they eat, but I think we all need to also be careful about repeating and thereby amplifying incorrect information. This is a pretty complex issue for your average person to tackle, though, so I certainly can't fault anyone for struggling to discern where the truth lies.

    Oh, and if you ever see Blaylock's book referenced you can be pretty sure that you're being misled. That thing is a monument to either profound incompetence or willful misinterpretation of the literature.

  4. In reading articles on the subject for days, I can see that the debate over MSG has been raging for years and will continue to do so. I appreciate your extensive knowledge on the subject. I'm sure we can agree that an "average person" can avoid the whole mess by choosing whole foods with ingredients that can be pronounced and defined without a medical dictionary or a deep knowledge of chemical processes; and that do not require testing on any animal.

    As I stated at the end of the post, I intend only to be a spark for each person to come to their own conclusion. Thanks so much for providing another side to the topic.

  5. I think we're basically on the same page, but there can also be something of a "rose by any other name" phenomenon at work here. Take "autolyzed yeast" for example; it sounds like something right out of a lab, but autolysis is a natural process that occurs any time that yeasts are grown in nutrient limiting conditions. If you know what you're looking for you can often identify autolyzed yeast flavor in, for example, a friend's homebrewed beer. It certainly doesn't sound like something that a person seeking to eat healthy and minimally processed foods might want to eat, but insofar as you might define "minimally processed" as "things I might reasonably do in my own kitchen" it's probably on the menu.

    I hope you didn't take that "average person" comment of mine as any kind of a criticism. I certainly didn't intend it that way, although I can see how it might have come across badly. Mea culpa, and thanks for the forum to talk about dietary glutamate.

  6. No offense at all Jaime! I am exactly that - an average person. I shouldn't HAVE to investigate all that you've laid out above. It shouldn't even be on the label. Food from the earth is a miracle just as it is - and so long as there are food companies that will make a vegetable soup with only organic vegetables and a dash of sea salt - they will get my dollars. It's really so simple.

    Honestly - thank you for posting taking the time to post this information. I don't know your background or why you feel called to stick up for ol' battered glutamate (I jest!) - but it doesn't matter. After sleeping on it, you helped me clarify my reasons for posting it and my feelings about it in retrospect. I absolutely love life's lessons.

    Wishing you health and happiness in this crazy world, L