There is plenty of controversies associated with MSG. Researchers believe that the excess consumption of monosodium glutamate can cause asthma, headaches, and even brain health issues. On the other hand, the majority of official sources, including the FDA, claim that MSG is a safe food ingredient. The following article discusses what is monosodium glutamate, or MSG, and its effects on overall health and wellness, exploring both sides of the argument on the food ingredient.
What is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)?
MSG is known as monosodium glutamate. It is a common food ingredient that is utilized to enhance flavor in foods. MSG comes from the amino acid, glutamate or glutamic acid, which is one of the most common amino acids found in nature. Glutamate is a non-essential amino acid, which ultimately means that the human body can naturally produce it. Monosodium glutamate also serves a variety of functions in the human body and it is commonly found in almost all types of foods.
MSG is a white crystalline powder that looks similar to sugar or table salt. It is also made up of a combination of sodium and glutamic acid, known as sodium salt. The glutamic acid in MSG is created by fermenting starches, however, there is no chemical difference between the glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate and that found in natural foods. The glutamic acid in MSG can be easier to absorb because it isn’t bound inside big protein molecules which the body breaks down.
Glutamate in the Human Body
Our stomach and gut lining have many glutamate receptors. MSG and other types of glutamate are absorbed through these receptors. Once in the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract, glutamate is broken down as energy or incorporated into other molecules. Glutamate is also an essential neurotransmitter in the brain. However, researchers believe that dietary glutamate is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, which ultimately suggests that all glutamate from the brain is created there.
Evidence from research studies in mice showed that the blood-brain barrier in newborns is immature and that glutamate can pass into the brain. Increased levels of glutamate injected into newborn mice caused considerable brain damage. A research study showed that increased levels of MSG also cause severe effects in fruit flies, causing premature death. While the levels utilized in these research studies exceeded average daily consumption reported among humans, it is essential to mention that restaurants and food manufacturers are not required to declare the levels of MSG added to their foods.
Is MSG Good or Bad for You?
Glutamate, or glutamic acid, functions as a neurotransmitter in the human brain. It is also considered an excitatory neurotransmitter, which means that it stimulates nerve cells to transmit signals. Several people believe that MSG causes excess glutamate in the brain and excess stimulation of the nerve cells. Therefore, MSG has been labeled as an excitotoxin.
Concerns associated with the effects of MSG date as far back as 1969, when a research study found that injecting large doses of MSG into newborn mice caused harmful neurological effects. Since then, a variety of other sources have continued to have this concern with MSG. Another research study showed that increased glutamate activity in the brain can cause harm and large doses of MSG can raise blood levels of glutamate. Aa megadose of MSG increased blood levels by 556%.
However, dietary glutamate should have little to no effect on the human brain because it can’t cross the blood-brain barrier in large amounts. There is not enough evidence to show that MSG acts as an excitotoxin when consumed in normal amounts.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Sensitivity
Several people may also experience adverse effects from consuming MSG. This health issue is known as Chinese restaurant syndrome or MSG symptom complex. In one research study, people with self-reported MSG sensitivity consumed either 5 grams of MSG or a placebo where 36.1% reported reactions with MSG compared to 24.6% with placebo. Common symptoms included headaches, flushing, muscle tightness, tingling sensations, numbness, and weakness, among other symptoms.
The threshold dose that causes symptoms seems to be around 3 grams per meal. However, keep in mind that 3 grams is a very high dose, approximately six times the average daily intake of MSG in the United States. It is still unclear why this happens, however, some researchers hypothesize that such large doses of MSG allow trace amounts of glutamic acid to cross the blood-brain barrier and interact with neurons which can cause brain damage, swelling, and injury. Several believe that MSG also causes asthma in susceptible people. In one 32-person research study, 40% of participants experienced an asthma attack with MSG. However, other research studies did not find any relationship between MSG intake and asthma.
Depending on who you ask, MSG is either perfectly safe or a dangerous neurotoxin. The truth lies somewhere in between. Evidence indicates that MSG is safe in moderate amounts. However, megadoses may cause harm. If you react adversely to MSG, you shouldn’t eat it. That said, if you don’t experience side effects, there’s no compelling reason to avoid it. Keep in mind that MSG is generally found in processed, low-quality foods — which you should avoid or limit anyway. If you already eat a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods, you shouldn’t have to worry about high MSG intake.
The controversy between MSG and brain health has been determined by a variety of research studies. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, has been utilized as a food ingredient and it is largely consumed by many people in the US on a regular basis today. Although the FDA, or the Food and Drug Administration, categorizes MSG as a safe food ingredient, many research studies have determined that it can cause a variety of brain health issues, including neurological diseases, among other well-known health issues. – Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight
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There is plenty of controversies associated with MSG. Researchers believe that the excess consumption of monosodium glutamate can cause asthma, headaches, and even brain health issues. On the other hand, the majority of official sources, including the FDA, claim that MSG is a safe food ingredient. The article discusses what is monosodium glutamate, or MSG, and its effects on overall health and wellness, exploring both sides of the argument on the food ingredient. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal and nervous health issues as well as functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health protocols to treat injuries or chronic disorders of the musculoskeletal system. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
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Additional Topic Discussion: Chronic Pain
Sudden pain is a natural response of the nervous system which helps to demonstrate possible injury. By way of instance, pain signals travel from an injured region through the nerves and spinal cord to the brain. Pain is generally less severe as the injury heals, however, chronic pain is different than the average type of pain. With chronic pain, the human body will continue sending pain signals to the brain, regardless if the injury has healed. Chronic pain can last for several weeks to even several years. Chronic pain can tremendously affect a patient’s mobility and it can reduce flexibility, strength, and endurance.
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