The Truth Behind Monosodium Glutamate
Have you recently ventured on eating in an Asian restaurant? We all enjoyed that savory and flavorful dishes whether it is a chicken, pork or beef platter. Spices and herbs make every Korean, Japanese, and especially Chinese dishes palatable. But Asian dishes has been speculated because of a very well-known food additive which is the monosodium glutamate.
Monosodium glutamate has been widely used especially in the kitchen for flavoring purposes. Asian dishes are regarded for having a savory taste because of this kitchen miracle. But it has also been criticized for having a side-effect on our health. So what is the truth behind this food chemical?
Glutamic acid (glutamate is the ionic form) is one of the 20 natural occurring amino acids on our body and in the biological system. Glutamate plays a big role as a neurotransmitter in most of the neural activity. In cellular metabolism, glutamate is also one of the necessary compound.
MSG can be compared to natural glutamate found in foods so it functions also as flavor enhancer. A fifth taste was recognized called “umami” which is known as meaty and savory taste. MSG tricks our taste buds when glutamate ions are recognized by the nerves in our tongue telling the brain that we are eating a meaty and savory meal.
Decades ago, MSG is usually extracted and crystallized from high protein content source like seaweed broth. But nowadays MSG are produced from a certain industrial fermentation synthesis from starch, sugar cane, molasses and sugar beets. MSG was introduced in the United States after the World War II, when U.S. military realized that Japanese rations are tastier because of the MSG.
So are there any adverse effects on using MSG as food additive? Few number of people reported sensitivity on the chemical compound but scientific research have shown that it has no direct link on the MSG and the adverse effect in humans. MSG was used to be blamed on a phenomenon called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” However, it was not proven that MSG is the cause of these health problems. Other studies showed that Asian foods does have a lot of allergy inducing agents like shrimps, peanuts, herbs and spices. So technically speaking, MSG is safe even in young individuals. In fact, breast milk has 10 times more glutamate than cow’s milk.
Since the introduction of this chemical compound as food additive 30 years ago, it was link to a lot of health problems such as Obesity, Type II Diabetes and many more. But this is really scientifically baseless and unjustifiable. Internet, video games, poor health lifestyle and many more factors have been introduced since then that affects diabetes and obesity. It can be just coincidental on the introduction of MSG.
MSG is the most extensively studied food additive around the world. Hundreds of research were conducted and it was concluded that it is an effective as flavor enhancer and safe for us humans to intake although few studies link it to bad effects especially on our health. Always remember that too much of something is bad.