May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will leave the world a little better for your having been here. -- Ronald Reagan

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Myth of MSG

I love watching shows that talk about food. Not necessarily the cooking part, but the cultural and travel part. All of Anthony Bourdain’s stuff, and recently I streamed a series hosted by Chef David Chang. All exciting stuff. Chang is internationally renowned for his mastery of noodles, and real ramen found in Japan. Some of his shows discuss the science of foods, for example, the chemical reactions when mixing foods and spices together.

Imagine my surprise when the science of MSG was talked about. For those of us that love love love Chinese and Japanese food, this has been a concern. I’m sure we’re all aware of signs saying no MSG added in just about any Chinese restaurant we enter.

Turns out, MSG is a naturally occurring amino acid. That soy sauce you use is loaded with it. Your Kung pao chicken is full of it without being added. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is one of the building blocks of proteins. It’s been used for thousands of years by cooks to enhance flavor and has no flavor itself. The Japanese get it from seaweed. The ancient Romans used fermented fish to get an MSG laden sauce.

As usual, the “Press” jumped on something and got it wrong and it became a food meme, dating back to the late 1960’s. There was an article in “Science” magazine stating:  “Monosodium L-glutamate is the cause of the Chinese restaurant syndrome and can precipitate headaches. In appropriate doses it causes burning sensations, facial pressure, and chest pain. These are pharmacological effects obeying a dose-effect relationship. There is considerable variation in oral threshold does among individuals.” There were no supporting experiments or tests, or blind studies. Nothing but personal anecdotes that the main stream media ran with, and has been running with since the 1960’s. There may be a few people that are allergic, but there isn’t a substance on the planet that someone is allergic to.

The glutamic acid that is amino acid results from MSG, is in practically every food we eat; meats, pasta, tomatoes, Parmesan. By weight the sodium in MSG is less than an equivalent amount as salt. Our bodies process the resulting amino acids, takes what it needs, and the rest get discharged through our kidneys.

It has no correlation to creating blindness, obesity, heart attacks, asthma, or migraine headaches. Many tests and studies have been done since the media perpetrated scare of decades ago, but the MSM never corrects itself after damage is done, regardless of subject or issue. (I say never because they hide corrections so as to not be seen, and the lie keeps on giving.) Think of it, no supporting evidence MSG is any more harmful than anything else we eat.

So enjoy your (real) ramen, noodles, pasta, tomatoes, meats…it’s all good. And the reason it’s all good, good and good for you, is because of MSG.  

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