Ingredients By Any Other Name You’d Want To Avoid:: MSG

In the world of responsible dietary consumption, reading labels has become second nature for me. If I can’t pronounce it or if the source is not identified on the label, most likely I’m not ingesting it and would recommend the same for you. There’s always conversation about what to and what not to eat. In this series, ingredients that you get to avoid like a plague trying to invade your vital organs will be highlighted.

Once upon a time, MSG was the golden child of food enhancement. It can turn the blandest dish into a cherished morsel you just can’t get enough of. When visiting overseas, after consuming some seemingly great meals, I’d read the labels of the ingredients a chef used and was taken aback when seeing MSG as a prominent ingredient. People still use MSG and companies are still making and selling this stuff. Visit any “ethnic” aisle or store and you are guaranteed to find at least 10 products containing MSG. Check your local Asian restaurant menu and many boost “MSG Free”. There is a reason. In fact, there are many reasons to avoid it.

Some noted symptoms of MSG toxicity include: Headache, Sweating, Weakness, Numbness, Tingling or Burning in the face, neck and other areas, Chest Pain, Flushing, Nausea, and heart palpitations. MSG has also been linked in studies to obesity, Alzheimer’s, and other degenerative diseases. It is also a highly addictive additive.

A 2002 study by the Department of Ophthalmology at Hirosaki University School of Medicine, revealed that a diet high in sodium glutamate as flavoring significantly increased changes in retinal morphology and function. In the study, one group received moderate excess of the glutamate while the second group received large excesses. In both groups, the diets showed retinal cell destruction.

” . . .Significant accumulation of glutamate in vitreous was observed in rats following addition of sodium glutamate to the diet as compared to levels with a regular diet. In the retinal morphology, thickness of retinal neuronal layers was remarkably thinner in rats fed on sodium glutamate diets than in those on a regular diet. . . The present study suggests that a diet with excess sodium glutamate over a period of several years may increase glutamate concentrations in vitreous and may cause retinal cell destruction. “

This would explain why my eyesight is so poor! Growing up, my family used a lot of seasoning like Goya Sazon and flavoring bullion. Looking at a packet of Sazon today, it still contains MSG. To this day, I believe an adverse reaction to excess MSG that I suspect was in a Miso soup I drank landed me in the hospital last year.

Now there is a difference between MSG and Glutamate. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a salt of the amino acid called Glutamic Acid (Glutamate), the processed child of Glutamate, not a naturally occurring additive.

Glutamate is found naturally in many both plant and animal proteins including food chicken, eggs, peas and corn.

When protein is digested, the glutamic acid in that protein is released for use in the body. If there is need, additional glutamic acid can be synthesized from other amino acids contained in ingested protein. If an individual never ingested protein with glutamic acid in it, that individual could synthesize all the glutamic acid needed for body function from other amino acids. The human brain is also capable of synthesizing glutamic acid according to its metabolic needs, from endogenous materials. Glutamic acid is referred to as a non-essential amino acid because a healthy human can manufacture/synthesize all the glutamic acid needed for normal body function from other amino acids. –

MSG is a noted excitotoxin which means it over excites nerve cells and leads to damage and killing of those cells as well.

Now don’t think MSG is the only ingredient to look for. It is contained in a variety of ingredients.
Here is more information about the hidden names and sources of MSG from

Names of ingredients that ALWAYS contain processed free glutamic acid:
Glutamic acid (E 620)
Glutamate (E 620)
Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
Calcium glutamate (E 623)
Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
Natrium glutamate
Yeast extract
Anything “hydrolyzed”
Any “hydrolyzed protein”
Calcium caseinate, Sodium caseinate
Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
Autolyzed yeast
Textured protein
Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
Soy protein isolate
Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
Whey protein isolate
Anything “…protein”

*Glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein does not cause adverse reactions. To cause adverse reactions, the glutamic acid must have been processed/manufactured or come from protein that has been fermented.

Names of ingredients that often contain or produce processed free glutamic acid:
Carrageenan (E 407)
Bouillon and broth
Any “flavors” or “flavoring”
Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
Anything “ultra-pasteurized”
Barley malt
Pectin (E 440)
Anything “enzyme modified”
Anything containing “enzymes”
Malt extract
Soy sauce (a reader has informed us that Russell Blaylock, MD states in his book, Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, that soy sauce ALWAYS contains MSG)
Soy sauce extract
Anything “protein fortified”
Anything “fermented”

The following are ingredients suspected of containing or creating sufficient processed free glutamic acid to serve as MSG-reaction triggers in HIGHLY SENSITIVE people:
Corn starch
Corn syrup
Modified food starch
Lipolyzed butter fat
Rice syrup
Brown rice syrup
Milk powder
Reduced fat milk (skim; 1%; 2%)
Most things low fat or no fat
Anything “Enriched”
Anything Vitamin enriched

* E numbers are use in Europe in place of food additive names.

The following work synergistically with MSG to enhance flavor. If they are present for flavoring, so is MSG.

Disodium 5’-guanylate (E 627)
Disodium 5’-inosinate (E-631)
Disodium 5′-ribonucleotides (E 635)

Low fat and no fat milk products often contain milk solids that contain MSG and many dairy products contain carrageenan, guar gum, and/or locust bean gum. Low fat and no fat ice cream and cheese may not be as obvious as yogurt, milk, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, etc., but they are not exceptions.

Protein powders contain glutamic acid, which, invariably, will be processed free glutamic acid (MSG). Individual amino acids are not always listed on labels of protein powders. If you see the word “protein” in an ingredient label, the product contains MSG.

At present there is an FDA requirement to include the protein source when listing hydrolyzed protein products on labels of processed foods. Examples are hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed pea protein, hydrolyzed whey protein, hydrolyzed, corn protein. If a tomato, for example, were whole, it would be identified as a tomato. Calling an ingredient tomato protein indicates that the tomato has been hydrolyzed, at least in part, and that processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is present.

Disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate are relatively expensive food additives that work synergistically with inexpensive MSG. Their use suggests that the product has MSG in it. They would probably not be used as food additives if there were no MSG present.

MSG reactions have been reported from soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and cosmetics, where MSG is hidden in ingredients with names that include the words “hydrolyzed,” “amino acids,” and/or “protein.” Most sun block creams and insect repellents also contain MSG.

Drinks, candy, and chewing gum are potential sources of hidden MSG and/or aspartame, neotame. and AminoSweet (the new name for aspartame). Aspartic acid, found in neotame, aspartame (NutraSweet), and AminoSweet, ordinarily causes MSG type reactions in MSG sensitive people. (It would appear that calling aspartame “AminoSweet” is industry’s method of choice for hiding aspartame.) We have not seen Neotame used widely in the United States.

Aspartame will be found in some medications, including children’s medications. For questions about the ingredients in pharmaceuticals, check with your pharmacist and/or read the product inserts for the names of “other” or “inert” ingredients.

Binders and fillers for medications, nutrients, and supplements, both prescription and non-prescription, enteral feeding materials, and some fluids administered intravenously in hospitals, may contain MSG.

According to the manufacturer, Varivax–Merck chicken pox vaccine (Varicella Virus Live), contains L-monosodium glutamate and hydrolyzed gelatin, both of which contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG) which causes brain lesions in young laboratory animals, and causes endocrine disturbances like OBESITY and REPRODUCTIVE disorders later in life. It would appear that most, if not all, live virus vaccines contain some ingredient(s) that contains MSG.

Reactions to MSG are dose related, i.e., some people react to even very small amounts. MSG-induced reactions may occur immediately after ingestion or after as much as 48 hours. The time lapse between ingestion and reaction is typically the same each time for a particular individual who ingests an amount of MSG that exceeds his or her individual tolerance level.

Remember: By food industry definition, all MSG is “naturally occurring.” “Natural” doesn’t mean “safe.” “Natural” only means that the ingredient started out in nature, like arsenic and hydrochloric acid.

What are your thoughts on MSG?


YGL staff