MSG (monosodium glutamate) is bad news and there’s no two ways around it. MSG is a known neurotoxin and is used as a flavor enhancer (seemingly unnecessary, right?) often found in soups, sauces/dressings, processed snack foods, and processed meat products. A couple of weeks ago I actually saw MSG for sale in the spice aisle of my local grocery store for about $1.50. I was appalled.
I kept thinking, do people really add this to their home cooking? I know that Chinese food (the American takeout kind, anyway) is normally pretty loaded with this stuff, but it was beyond belief that this could be used in home cooking on a regular basis. And then, wouldn’t you believe, I was looking through one of my mom’s old cookbooks/Oster blender manual from the early ’80s and there it was- 1 tsp MSG called for in guacamole dip. And then again for 2 tsp in an oriental seasoning sauce. While I’ve seen it listed on products at the store, I had never seen it in recipes before!
Despite seeing it in the cookbook, my guess is that it is not added so much to home recipes (at least anymore), but is consumed most widely in the many processed foods of the SAD (Standard American Diet). The worst part is that MSG isn’t always clearly labeled and can be hidden in descriptions such as natural flavor, hydrolyzed protein, and many others.
MSG is absorbed quickly into our bodies and large amounts cause excitotoxicity (this occurs when nerve cells are overstimulated and then permanently damaged or killed). Unfortunately, only some people feel correlations such as headaches when consuming MSG, telling them to avoid it, but all of us still experience the impact of MSG.
Natural News actually cites animal studies, stating “MSG creates a lesion in the hypothalamus that correlates with abnormal development, including obesity, short stature and sexual reproduction problems.” If that’s not enough to make someone want to avoid it, I don’t know what is. Even if, for whatever reason, you disagree with the dangers of MSG, is the potential for such damage really worth a little extra flavor in your food?
My personal belief is that MSG is a real hidden danger so it is important to analyze food labels carefully and to buy food that is “real” or unprocessed and as close to it’s natural state as possible. If you can make soup, broths, dressings, and your own homemade snacks you will have much better chances of avoiding MSG.