Monday, February 22, 2010

MSG by Any Other Name

I am writing this because I had a whopper of a headache after eating some seemingly innocent "all natural" onion ring snacks.  Man were they tasty!  Sure, I probably ate more than I should have, but they were soooo good.  Shortly thereafter, my migraine set in which prompted me to look at the ingredients on the bag of my delicious new friends.  I wondered what could have been in them that made me feel so awful.  I had suspected  monosodium glutamate (MSG) since I know I am sensitive to it, but MSG didn't pop out at me on the ingredient list.  What did catch my eye was modified food starch.  Guess what?  It's MSG.

Time for a little history lesson.   MSG is a flavor enhancer or food additive that was discovered in Japan in the early 1900s and was introduced to the U.S. in 1947.  It is produced by the fermentation of starch from plants like sugar beets, sugar cane and molasses.  In 2001 over 1.5 million tonnes (metric tons) were produced with an expected annual increase of 4%.  That's a lot of MSG, my friends.  You may be asking yourself why that's such a big deal.  If you're not sensitive to MSG's effects, then it's probably not.  But... check this out:  MSG and its posers have been linked to the following diseases and disorders (and it's not pretty):
  • Obesity
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Petit Mal seizures
  • Migraine Headaches (uh, hello!)
  • Children's Disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Cancer
  • Fibromyalgia
  • ADHD and Autism
  • Numbness
(Read more on the above here).

Yikes! So how can we stay away from this nasty stuff?  Well, it's hard.  MSG (and posers) is found in many of the foods in our modern society such as fast foods, prepared and processed foods, salad dressings, sauces, soups, cooking stocks, snack foods and chips.  Your best bet is to avoid these foods as much as possible and to arm yourself with information.  You can do that by always reading the labels.

Foods always contain MSG if the following are on the label:
  • MSG
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic acid
  • Gelatin
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein
  • Autolyzed plant protein
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Textured protein
  • Yeast extract
  • Yeast food or nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
Of course, there are all sorts of conflicting studies, stories, and everything in between on the relative "safety" of MSG.  Believe what you will.  I know for certain that I suffer from migraines when I eat MSG-laced food so I do my best to stay away from the stuff.


  1. Wow! I had no idea that those other items were sneaky MSG. Thanks for the info so I can be sure to avoid products containing those ingredients as well as MSG.

  2. It is scary that people specifically avoid MSG in foods, and all along our duplicitous industrial food czars have been poisoning us and our kids for years. GO Sun Chips - please give our kids a great dose of MSG :)

  3. I meant "interesting". Not funny. (Damn fat finger) must be all the MSG.

  4. My husband is extremely sensitive to MSG--we discovered it through the process of elimination about 10 years ago. He gets so terribly sick from it--extreme cramping and diahrrea. We cut out processed foods (the stuff is everywhere), and he is fine. The biggest problem comes when we eat out or are invited to someone's home for dinner. We have no choice but to ask and check labels--such a pain,but much better than the horrible pain he would be in from eating that poison. Robin at

  5. Hi Robin,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am glad that your husband is doing much better without MSG! I definitely share your concern about eating out or at a friend's house. It can definitely get awkward when asking about how the meal was prepared, what ingredients were used. I try to use the label reading as an educational tool as in, "Hey did you know that this product has MSG in it?" Many times, people don't know (especially if it's disguised as something else). I've been fortunate in that most people have been fairly receptive and appreciative of my "label reading" habit. They may roll their eyes at me later (or worse), but I think it's totally worth it. The more people who know, the better. Thanks again and I hope you enjoyed my blog.