Kombu, a seaweed, was first used in Japan as a flavor enhancer. A Japanese doctor isolated the main ingredient – MSG, or monosodium glutamate – and started what has become a million-dollar industry.
MSG is now the most widely used flavor enhancer in the world. MSG and MSG-containing substances are used in processed food, in fast foods, and in Chinese food. They’re also found in nearly all canned and frozen foods.
While some people can use MSG with no adverse effects, many others have severe reactions to it, some of them life-threatening. MSG has been linked to asthma, headaches, and heart irregularities. Behavioral and physical problems of children, such as incontinence and seizures, as well as attention deficit disorder (ADD), have been diagnosed and successfully treated as MSG disorders.
Those wishing to eliminate MSG from their diets are faced with an almost impossible task. Food preparers are often unaware that they’re even using MSG. Labels can be misleading. A label that says “No MSG added” doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is free of MSG, it simply means that the manufacturer didn’t put in additional MSG. MSG goes under many aliases, one of the most common being “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” an additive used to increase the protein content of a wide variety of foods.
Manufacturers also hide MSG as part of “natural flavorings,” because it is a natural product. But being natural is not the same as being harmless.
Below is a partial list of the most common names for disguised MSG. Remember also that the powerful excitotoxins aspartate and L-cysteine are frequently added to foods and, according to FDA rules, require no labeling at all.
Additives that always contain MSG
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
- Hydrolyzed Protein
- Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
- Plant Protein Extract
- Sodium Caseinate
- Calcium Caseinate
- Yeast Extract
- Textured Protein
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Terms that frequently indicate hidden MSG additives
- Malt extract
- Natural Flavoring
- Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring
Additives that may contain MSG or excitotoxins
- Soy Protein Concentrate
- Soy Protein Isolate
- Whey Protein Concentrate
- Protease enzymes of various sources can release excitotoxin amino acids from food proteins.
For more information, see:
Blaylock, Russell L., M.D. Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, Health Press, Santa Fe, NM 87504, 1994.
Schwartz, George R., M.D. and Schwartz, Kathleen A. In Bad Taste: The MSG Symptom Complex