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MSG: The Hidden Danger in Your Children’s Food

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Trying to make sure that what we feed our children will make them healthy instead of sick is difficult enough today, what with acres of junk foods in every supermarket and fast food restaurants on nearly every corner selling food that’s been so overprocessed it barely seems like food anymore.

But it is made even more difficult when our attempts to keep our kids safe are deliberately thwarted by the food industry itself, in the name of profits.

If you doubt that what I’m saying is true, consider this: The food industry has known for decades-decades-that a substance most in the food industry add to their products has been implicated in a host of physical ailments, including neurological disorders, migraines, Alzheimer’s, ADD and ADHD, seizures, and even obesity, but the industry insists it’s safe, and they keep on adding it.

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The substance is the flavor enhancer known as MSG, or monosodium glutamate. (The Food and Drug Administration admits that whether we call the substance MSG or monosodium glutamate, or even the chemical names, glutamic acid, L-glutamic acid, or simply glutamate, they’re all the same thing, so in this article, I’ll refer to it simply as MSG.)

Where do the profits come in? Using MSG allows food producers to cut down on quality; they can make up for the loss of flavor when they omit “real” ingredients by adding flavor “enhancers.” Our taste buds, and our brains, don’t notice the lack of real food-in fact, they’re being tricked into thinking the product is even tastier than it would have been without the tinkering. And as food manufacturers are driven to increase their profits, you can be assured that they will add less and less “food” to our food and more and more “enhancers.”

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Now, here’s the scary part: For decades, MSG has been used by medical researchers to cause brain damage, especially brain lesions, in young rats and mice, even in primates. Their work has shown that rats fed MSG from birth could not find their way through mazes as well as rats not fed MSG.

And for decades, MSG has been used by medical researchers to cause obesity in young laboratory animals. (Don’t believe me? Google “monosodium glutamate-induced obesity” or “monosodium glutamate-induced brain lesions” if you’re skeptical.)

In fact, those who have done extensive research on the MSG-obesity connection, such as Russell Blaylock, M.D., author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, says our current childhood obesity epidemic mirrors exactly the MSG-induced obesity in experimental animals, noting that children (and adults) will crave foods that contain MSG over those without it. In a recent e-mail, Dr. Blaylock wrote that there is “overwhelming evidence” that MSG causes not only childhood obesity but metabolic syndrome, as well.

And still, MSG is routinely added to the foods our children eat, and it’s added to infant formula and baby food, too. The well-known medical writer Christiane Northrup, M.D. notes on her web site that even as far back as the 1960s, MSG was routinely added to baby foods, but that the industry stopped using it after Congressional hearings in which researchers warned of serious adverse effects on the babies consuming those foods.

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Before you think well of those baby food companies, however, you should know that when they quit adding MSG, the sodium and glutamate mixture, they simply started adding it in other forms (a list appears below), but they could, with a clear conscience, claim that no MSG was added.

And there’s the problem. Food manufacturers routinely proclaim “No MSG” in their products because they didn’t sprinkle in the white powder that is the salt and glutamate combination. FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations require only that monosodium glutamate, when it’s added as that single ingredient, be listed on labels, but the other forms of MSG can be hidden under a host of seemingly harmless names.

And we buy the products for children, and we feel safe in knowing that we’re not poisoning them. It should not surprise you that those in the higher echelons of the food industry have very close ties with the FDA and the USDA. In particular, one Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., has been the chairman of the International Glutamate Technical Committee, which funds and publishes studies showing that MSG is safe, and that same person was until recently a member of the FDA’s Food Advisory Committee, overseeing the safety of our food supply.

Conflict of interest? Apparently not.

So how do you avoid MSG in your child’s diet? The obvious ones, Accent, Goya Sazon, Vetsin, and Marmite, are all primarily MSG, and they’re easy to avoid. The rest take some work. If you see any of these words on something you’re about to buy for your child, put down the package and back away slowly:

  • hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, plant protein extract
  • sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate
  • yeast extract, textured protein (including TVP), autolyzed or hydrolyzed yeast, yeast food
  • hydrolyzed oat flour
  • bouillon
  • gelatin (gummy bears, anyone?)
  • malt extract, malt flavoring, malted barley
  • broth, stock
  • flavoring, natural flavors, natural flavoring (of any kind)
  • seasoning, spices
  • carrageenan
  • enzymes, dough conditioners
  • soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate

And remember, if you’re purchasing any prepared food with a powder packet, it contains MSG. If you’re purchasing any prepared food with a sauce, it almost certainly contains MSG. If you’re buying a prepared soup, it almost certainly has MSG-even if it comes from the health food store. In fact, a great number of products that proclaim they’re “natural” or “organic” contain MSG.

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Your best defense is knowledge. Know the names under which MSG hides, carry a list with you when you shop, and beware of feeding your child, especially an infant, any food from any restaurant.

When it comes to MSG, knowledge is your best-and, sadly, your only-defense.

For more information on MSG, visit these web sites:

-www.msgtruth.org

-www.truthinlabeling.org

-www.msgmyth.com

-www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info/factsheets/FactMSG.htm

And from the opposition, we have www.msgfacts.com, the site of the Glutamate Association, in Washington, D.C. Where, you know, the laws are made.

Lynn Stratton

Lynn Stratton

Lynn Stratton worked for the St. Petersburg Times as a news archivist, copy editor and staff writer until recently, when she started her own writing and editing business. Before that, she taught at USF for 15 years. Originally from NYC, she spends her spare time walking her standard poodle, Harry, and working in her butterfly garden, where she's had 6 species of caterpillars so far this year.

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