You’re probably familiar with the food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) because of its ability to make your food tastier. But if you want to manage your weight, Dr. Joseph Mercola says that consuming MSG-rich foods is not a good idea because MSG can lead to obesity.
A study published in Reuters followed more than 10,000 adults in China for at least 5.5 years and measured their MSG intake by before-and-after weighing of products, such as soy sauce. By the end of the study, the researchers found out that those who consumed the most MSG (a median of 5 grams a day) were 30 percent more likely to become overweight (link).
The Link between MSG and Leptin
The hormone leptin is linked to the weight gain brought about by MSG consumption. Dr. Mercola says that leptin controls the highly regulated process of how your body stores fat. When you gain excess weight, the extra fat creates extra leptin that alerts your brain that your body is storing too much fat and needs to not only stop storing, but also get rid of the excess. It is crucial for your brain to receive the messages sent by leptin. Otherwise, you will continue eating and storing more fat.
The researchers noted that MSG consumption leads to excessive leptin production, which causes leptin resistance. This occurs when your body cannot “hear” the signals sent by leptin, meaning it stays hungry and stores more fat.
Leptin resistance not only contributes to weight gain, but also increases your risk of chronic illnesses. This hormone has a significant role in obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, reproductive disorders, and accelerated aging.
Other Damaging Effects of MSG
MSG is an excitoxin—it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, leading to brain damage in varying degrees. Dr. Russell Blaylock, a retired board-certified neurosurgeon and author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills says that MSG may potentially trigger or worsening learning disabilities, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and other health problems.
MSG is approximately 78 percent free glutamic acid, the same neurotransmitter used by your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas, and other organs to initiate certain body processes.
Dr. Blaylock explains:
“When an excess of food-borne excitotoxins, such as MSG, hydrolyzed protein soy protein isolate and concentrate, natural flavoring, sodium caseinate and aspartate from aspartame are consumed, these glutamate receptors are over-stimulated, producing cardiac arrhythmias. When magnesium stores are low, as we see in athletes, the glutamate receptors are so sensitive that even low levels of these excitotoxins can result in cardiac arrhythmias and death.”
Other health problems related to MSG consumption include fatigue, disorientation, eye damage, and depression, says Dr. Mercola. Short-term reactions called MSG Symptom Complex can also occur in certain groups of people, particularly those who have consumed large doses of MSG or who have asthma.
Symptoms of MSG Symptom Complex include:
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Tingling and numbness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Burning sensation
- Facial pressure or tightness
Identifying MSG on Food Labels
Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list the ingredient “monosodium glutamate” on food labels, it’s still very difficult to determine which products contain MSG. This is because they don’t need to have to label ingredients that contain free glutamic acid, even though it’s the main component of MSG.
Ingredients that contain MSG include:
- Autolyzed yeast
- Monopotassium glutamate
- Yeast nutrient
- Textured protein
- Glutamic acid
- Calcium caseinate
- Yeast food
- Sodium caseinate
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Yeast extract
- Yeast nutrient
Food products that create or contain MSG during processing include:
- Soy sauce
- Flavors and flavorings
- Natural beef, chicken, or pork flavorings
- Barley malt
- Broth or stock
- Malt extract or malt flavoring
- Corn starch
- Citric acid
- Soy protein and soy protein isolate
- Anything enzyme-modified
- Anything protein-fortified
- Anything ultra-pasteurized
Dr. Mercola says avoiding processed foods, restaurant foods, and fast food is the best way to be MSG-free. Instead, whip up a healthy, home-cooked meal from scratch. Not only will you be physically and mentally satisfied, but you’ll also know that the great taste and flavor comes from fresh and natural ingredients and seasonings, not from dangerous MSG.