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You are Fat!

By on May 28, 2011

Who doesn’t like good Chinese take-out? And who among us could stand to lose a few pounds? New research is now linking the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), most often associated with Chinese food to weight gain. 

Researchers found that people who eat more MSG are more likely to be overweight or obese. And the increased risk wasn’t simply because people were stuffing themselves with MSG-rich foods. The link between high MSG intake and being overweight held even after accounting for the total number of calories people ate.

Ka He, a nutrition expert at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who led the study, said that although the risk of weight gain attributable to MSG was modest, the implications for public health are substantial. “Everybody eats it,” He told Reuters Health.

MSG is one of the world’s most widely used food additives. Although it tends to be more popular in Asian countries, Americans manage to get their share in processed foods, from chips to canned soups, even when it’s not labeled as such.

Americans’ typical daily intake of MSG is estimated to be only about half a gram, whereas estimates for Japan and Korea put average intakes anywhere between a gram-and-a-half and 10 grams a day. MSG is considered safe, but some people complain of headaches, nausea and
other bad reactions it.

Several studies have examined the potential link between MSG and body weight, with conflicting results. Scientists have speculated that people may eat larger helpings of food with MSG because it just tastes better. Other evidence suggests that MSG might interfere with signaling systems in the body that regulate appetite.

In the latest research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (June 2011), He and his colleagues followed more than 10,000 adults in China for about 5.5 years on average. Men and women who ate the most MSG (a median of 5 grams a day) were about 30% more likely to become overweight by the end of the study than those who ate the least amount of the flavoring (less than a half-gram a day), the researchers found. After excluding people who were overweight at the start of the study, the risk rose to 33 percent.

One Comment

  1. Mike

    June 5, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    If MSG is so fattening, then why aren’t Asian people fat?

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