FROM PHIL LEMPERT:
Is MSG Aggravating Your Allergies?
July 23, 2010
SupermarketGuru has noticed that MSG is popping up on an increasing amount of food labels, and decided that this food additive definitely needed some more investigation. You might be surprised what we found out – especially if you suffer from allergies.
First, let’s make sure we cover the basics. There are two kinds of MSG, natural (found in everyday foods) and synthetic.
Natural MSG is known as L-glutamic acid, which is non-essential amino acid (building block for proteins) that is found in nature. It is slowly broken down in our digestive system and delivered to receptors in the body and brain. In fact it is one of the main components of protein foods such as meat, fish and some vegetables. Surprisingly, Glutamate is also produced in the body (thus a non-essential amino acid) and is essential in human metabolism as well as being an active neurotransmitter in the brain.
The synthetic or ‘free’ version is extracted in a lab using various processes (hydrolyzed, modified, autolyzed, texturized, and fermented) and is refined to a white crystal. Processing reveals the free version found in foods known as monosodium glutamate.
One of the controversies surrounding the additive MSG is that although all of its components are used and found in the body, ingesting it as a free amino acid, not linked to other components in food, is a recent commercially processed phenomenon – and, not necessarily “natural” – therefore could pose unknown stresses and risks during digestion and assimilation in the body.
There are a significant amount of people who avoid foods that contain MSG for various reasons – allergy sufferers may be the latest to join this group. A Johns Hopkins University study revealed that MSG may actually increase the activity of a protein in the nervous system that makes allergy sufferers more sensitive to irritants (i.e. make allergies worse!) If you suffer from food allergies or other seasonal or environmental irritants, you may benefit from an MSG free diet.
Unfortunately it’s not that easy to avoid MSG these days, as it is rarely clearly listed on a food label – but has many aliases. Some of MSG’s many aliases include: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extract, textured whey protein, textured soy protein, monopotassium glutamate, calcium caseinate, and gelatin. Flavorings, seasonings, bouillons and carrageenan often contain MSG or it is formed during manufacturing and processing.
So, what’s the best way avoid MSG? Buy whole foods and prepare them at home. The next best thing is to read labels and keep a list of MSG’s various aliases. Not everyone is sensitive to MSG, but reducing or eliminating it from the diet may help ease allergies.
As always speak with your physician before making any changes to your diet.