Having lived with health issues since a very early age, I admit I wasn't always careful or concerned about what food I put in my body. Continually willing to learn as I go, sometimes the hard way, I have been challenged with being both overweight and underweight at different times in my life and spent long periods of time where I couldn't eat restaurant food at all.
During my "overweight" years, it seemed I tried every diet and weight control plan I heard about, mostly without any lasting results. Recently, my friend Nealon Hightower, who has devoted his life to sharing his weight release program with others, asked me what I knew about the link between obesity and MSG.
Although I have been aware for a long time about MSG and the wide range of symptoms eating it can cause, I had to admit I didn't know much about its direct link to weight. My curiosity peaked, I committed to find out what I could for him. The information I uncovered, about the relationship of MSG to obesity, was both eye-opening and shocking. I hope what I share here brings some new understanding and perspective to the impact this additive can have on the human body.
Rats are not normally prone to obesity. Although this may seem an unimportant fact, unless you have a soft spot for these often disdained rodents, rats are used by scientists to test new drugs; drugs that need to be tried out first before being used on humans to treat diabetes or new weight loss products. When scientists inject the rodents at birth with MSG, like magic, they produce obese test subjects. Because MSG triples the amount of insulin the rat's pancreas creates, the results are perfect MSG-Treated Rats equals fat rats. When you search under "MSG Obese" at the National Library of Medicine, at www.pubmed.com, you find over 100 studies to substantiate this.
Childhood obesity is at crises levels in North America, with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative committed to bringing awareness and change to this escalating problem. This obesity epidemic has led to another crisis, the large increase in Type 2 diabetes in children. In questioning why, people look at sugar and fat as the culprits, because they taste better to the palate than fruits and vegetables do.
Looking further, we find that it is a well kept secret since the late 1970's, that food researchers have known that MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), added to virtually all junk foods, is addictive. This flavour enhancer is found not only in junk food, but in an enormous range of processed foods as well.
MSG is considered a natural substance in the same ways salt and sugar are, as it is derived from seaweed or corn. Healthy, you might think. The story of MSG is well documented by John Erb, a former researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada, in his book The Slow Poisoning of America. The fact that MSG appears under many names can lead to confusion, as many of the names sound safe. Erb reports that MSG appears as the terms natural flavouring, hydrolyzed or textured vegetable protein, Accent, calcium caseinate, autolyzed yeast extract and gelatin.
When I mention MSG to people they generally think of its use in Chinese food. However, when you start to look, you'll find it in the coffees you buy at your favourite coffee shops and it's even injected into turkeys, to make them plump. Erb encourages us to look closely at a wide range of foods, from Campbell's Soups, Hostess Doritos, Lays flavoured potato chips, canned gravies and frozen dinners, to Kraft salad dressings. MSG is in fact everywhere; the list is virtually endless.
Obesity is not the only health issue MSG is linked to, as Dr. George Schwartz in his book, In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome Complex, identifies research that links MSG and the dramatic rise in cases of asthma, ADHD, migraines, Parkinson's disease and heartbeat irregularities too. Ingesting MSG can result in a wide range of symptoms like facial flushing and headaches, with gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety and depression reported by individuals as well.
The food industry and food processors do know the impact MSG has on the human body. The glutamate industry website, www.msgfacts.com talks of the positive impact on food consumption in the elderly. "Studies have found that adding MSG to certain foods, such as soup and mashed potatoes has been successful in increasing the food intake of institutionalized elderly populations."
What about the rest of us, especially the children? MSG is even found in weight loss products, so do your own homework and read the labels. If you know someone who has tried to lose weight but couldn't, although they hardly eat anything, maybe it's the MSG in the diet foods they are eating.
Curious about how MSG causes obesity? Like aspartame, which is present in many diet foods and diet sodas, it is an excitotoxin. Excitotoxins over excite neurons to the point of cell damage and eventually cell death. (1)
Dr. Russsell Blaylock in his book Excitotoxins..The Taste that Kills, reports that in animal studies MSG creates a lesion in the hypothalamus that correlates with abnormal development, including obesity, short stature and sexual reproduction problems.
Dr. Blaylock reports that
one can only wonder if the large number of people having difficulty with obesity in the United States is related to early exposure to food additive excitotoxins, since this obesity is one of the most consistent features of the syndrome. One characteristic of obesity induced by excitotoxins is that it doesn't appear to depend on food intake. This could explain why some people cannot diet away their obesity. It is ironic that so many people drink soft drinks sweetened with NutraSweet® when aspartate can produce the exact same lesions as glutamate, resulting in gross obesity. The actual extent of MSG induced obesity in the human population is unknown. (2).
For those who argue that they exercise faithfully, believing this should ensure weight loss, think again. The popular belief in the 'calories in -- calories out theory,' when you expend more calories than you ingest you lose weight, is also debunked by Dr. Blaylock. "This MSG - induced obesity was characterized by a preference for carbs and an aversion for more nutritious foods, just as we are witnessing in our youth. Also, excess weight was extremely difficult to exercise off or diet off in these experimental animals." (3)
MSG is virtually everywhere in processed foods and is generously used in all restaurants, especially fast food places. Almost vigilant about what I eat now, I still find that it can be tough to escape it. The best way is to stay away from packaged and processed foods. When eating in restaurants, I see it becomes more of a challenge, as restaurant personnel aren't always sure or even educated about where MSG might be hiding. Remember, just because a restaurant says they do not add MSG, it is almost always lurking in the soup and sauce bases they purchase from manufacturers.
Personal responsibility for health and well being, starts with us as consumers. By being aware, we can use the power of our individual voices and say no to manufactured foods and products that have MSG. Protecting your personal health supports and protects society's health, and I believe it ultimately serves the health of our planet.
Being committed to buying fresh, real foods, fruits and vegetables and eating organic as much as possible, is a place to start in managing your health and your weight. We all have the choice to stay informed and educate ourselves by checking labels and asking questions.
Those who know me, can expect me to ask even more questions and look more closely at the foods I'm choosing to eat. Love to hear some feedback on the places you were surprised to find MSG. Here's to good health and well-being for all.
(1) Blaylock RL. Alternative Therapies, Mar/Apr 2009, VOL. 15, NO. 2 A possible central mechanism in autism spectrum disorders, part 3: the role of excitotoxin food additives and the synergistic effects of other environmental toxins. pgs. 56-60
(2) Blaylock, Russell L. Excitotoxins: the Taste That Kills. Santa Fe, NM: Health, 1998. Print. pg. 81
(3) Blaylock, Russell L. Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can save Your Life. Albuquerque, NM: Health, 2006. Print. pg. 182