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The Salty Truth About MSG

By on April 16, 2012

Most of us know that MSG is a sodium (e.g. salt) rich additive in Chinese take-out and many processed foods but did you know that MSG (monosodium glutamate) is also in some salad dressings (hidden valley and Wishbone). You should know that after a couple of minutes of research, I found out that the FDA doesn’t require companies to list it in their ingredients if it’s from a “natural source.” It’s safe to assume that every food product containing ‘sodium’ or ‘hydrolized proteins’ also contains MSG.

It’s easy to make your own salad dressing with no MSG and other such additives. A friend of mine from Romania and one of my Italian patients inspired me to experiment with salad dressings. People from other countries tell me they usually make their own dressing instead of buying it.

To make your own salad dressing use Extra Virgin Olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette or Lemon Juice (not both), salt, pepper and other herbs like basil. Taking steps to manage your MSG intake can help reduce risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and weight gain.

The Food & Drug Administration does not require food corporations to list glutamate in their ingredients list. Tomatoes, cheese, soy sauce, and some yeast extracts all contain forms of glutamates. In Canada, food product labels can advertise “no MSG” and “MSG free” despite having glutamates in their food.

What Are Hydrolzyed Proteins?

We define a hydrolyzed protein as a protein that has been broken down into its basic amino acids. Food companies usually boil their food-product in strong HVP avid or in a strong enzyme to simulate natural hydrolization. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that the breakdown of proteins can spawn free-glutamates in the human body. Once created in the body, they join free sodium compounds to form MSG. American food companies can essentially add MSG to their products through this method and bypass any laws that require the labeling of MSG on the nutrition label. Basically, food companies don’t have to label the ingredient MSG on their labels when using hydrolzyed proteins.

What products contain MSG, and how does it effect you?

According to TruthInLabel.com, MSG can be found in dairy products, protein powder, candy, gum, some nutritional supplements, and even soaps and shampoos. Symptoms of eating foods with MSG can include migraine headaches, upset stomach, fuzzy thinking, diarrhea, heart irregularities, asthma, and/or mood swings.  Remember: By food industry definition, all MSG is “naturally occurring.” “Natural” doesn’t mean “safe.”  “Natural” only means that the ingredient started out in nature.

What foods with MSG should you avoid?

Chicken, sausage products, ranch dressing, parmesan items, gravy, and dipping sauces and fries with any kind of seasoning on them except plain salt. Flavorited salty snack chips —especially Doritos® and Cheetos® or items with cheese powder added. At regular restaurants, you want to avoid parmesan encrusted anything, soups, caesar salad, fish sauce or extract, soy sauce, Boars Head® Cold Cuts, beef jerky (usually made with soy sauce) and anything that comes out of a can. Foods labeled “Low Sodium” or “Now with Sea Salt” are now suspect. Read the label and ask questions when you eat out.


Dr. Jerome Lisk is board certified neurologist with a fellowship in movement disorders, named one of Pasadena Magazine’s Top Docs of 2011. He’s also Chairman and President of  Southern California Movement Disorder Specialists. Dr. Lisk is also a medical contributor for healthyblackmen.org.


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