Food additives have been used for years to flavor, preserve, thicken, and color foods. But while our eyes and palettes may be well satisfied, Federal Regulations require evidence that additives are safe, and MSG, a popular additive made notorious by Chinese take-out, is under infamously close scrutiny.
The Good, The Bad, And The Flavorful – What It Is
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a flavor enhancer as any compound used to provide a “technical effect” in foods by augmenting the taste already present.
MSG is made from hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which comes from “junk” vegetables that are no longer fit for sale. The process involves boiling these vegetables in a vat of acid, followed by neutralizing caustic soda. The result is a brown sludge that collects on top, which is scraped off, dried, and then becomes a powder that is sprinkled into that bag of Doritos. Appetizing, right?
Its claim to fame might be cheap Chinese food, but it can also be found in chips and dips, pre-made soups, frozen meals, instant noodles, spice blends, ketchup, mayonnaise, granola bars, fruit snacks and candy, lunchmeats, frozen hamburgers, bacon, ham, and canned tuna fish. Restaurants also use MSG in some of their meat products. Even snacks considered healthy, such as yogurt and cottage cheese, may include it. Given how many products use MSG, it’s indeed relevant to our health!
The FDA states there is no evidence that MSG is a super villain contributing to long-term health problems
But short-term, temporary side effects aside, why such the bad rap? Well, MSG has been shown in lab tests to affect the regulation of hypothalamic appetite suppression (read: it makes you feel hungry again), which links it to obesity and type 2 diabetes
Who’s Down With MSG? No-bo-dy. – What It Means
So who is right? According to the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, MSG is a safe, naturally occurring food ingredient, and the controversy only arises from anecdotal complaints. However, other tests beg to differ. Lab tests contend that it causes obesity, disease, and possibly brain damage. To be safe, avoid it all together, but don’t stress out too much if it slips in there haphazardly!
MSG is definitely dangerous to your health… at least if you’re a rat.