Quest Vitamins LTD,
Could MSG be helping to make you fat?
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a type of manufactured salt, derived from the amino acid glutamate, used as a flavour enhancer. MSG is commonly found in processed foods such as crisps, cooking sauces, stock cubes and condiments but is particularly associated with Chinese style fast food. It's E number is E621; MSG may also be included under vague descriptions such as "seasonings" or "hydrolysed protein".
The potential ill-effects of consuming MSG were first described in a medical journal as "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome"; symptoms including numbness and palpitations were reported shortly after visiting a Chinese restaurant. Animal studies have indicated that MSG can induce lesions in the hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of the brain that has a major role in appetite regulation. MSG was found in these same studies to induce resistance to the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite. Based on this researchers examined data from 752 healthy Chinese men and women.
Average intake of MSG among the group studied was 0.33g daily. Adjusting for other factors influencing weight such as levels of physical activity and daily calorie intake, increasing MSG consumption was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI). The incidence of overweight was significantly higher among MSG users than nonusers.
While it may be that MSG use is associated with a less healthy life-style overall this study still provides compelling evidence. The effect of MSG on the flavour of food comes from its free glutamate content, a very similar effect can be obtained by adding free glutamate rich ingredients such as parmesan cheese and soy sauce to food, there is therefore no reason to consume it.