Avoiding the MSG Threat
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SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Most people know that MSG makes their food taste better, but they don't have a clue what it does to their body.
As we've been learning more about MSG's impact -- on obesity, the brain, the heart and even cancer -- consumers are wondering what to do.
What do you choose at the grocery or restaurant, or better yet, what do you avoid?
Keeping monosodium glutamate off the table is no easy task. Your waiter or chef rarely knows anything about hidden MSG or what food ingredients contain it.
In the grocery, there are dozens of hidden names for MSG.
Dr. Russell Blaylock said, "The consumer needs to tell these manufacturers, 'We're not going to buy your product until that's taken out -- and don't disguise the names because we'll find out what they are.'"
And Blaylock says that science is finding more and more problems with the sneaky additive -- even infertility.
He said, "Because the male sperm cannot get to the egg, and MSG decreases the number of sperm …we know the ovary is filled with glutamate receptors."
MSG stimulates those receptors so that a woman's eggs become damaged. And with basic life issues like that, is the Food and Drug Administration sounding any alarms?
"The FDA has never walked into a flavoring house or into a food producer, 'Give me that flavoring I want to test it for free glutamic acid.' So it's never been tested," said Blaylock.
Jack Samuels learned MSG caused his heart spasms years ago.
"On two occasions they thought I had died because they could not get a pulse," he said.
Samuels decided to take up the MSG fight by publishing its hidden names on his Web site, truthinlabeling.org.
And for his own safety, he only shops at a natural foods store, with a specific strategy.
Here are some of his secrets:
-- Pick organic vegetables without cosmetic wax.
Samuels: And to fill in the crannies that are normal…
CBN News: …And that could be a glutamate-type?
Samuels: …they sometimes put a hydrolyzed protein into that mixture. In so doing, it breaks down some of the protein, and an individual like me will get sick.
-- Buy milk that is pasteurized, but not homogenized -- but not one that's ultra-pasteurized.
Terry Strouss blames MSG for the migraines he suffered for almost 20 years. He looks for those secret names at a regular grocery store.
"We stay away from bologna and hot dogs, and all of the cheaper processed meats," Strouss said. "This is all really safe for our family. The ranch dressing -- it might be fat-free, but it has MSG right in the ingredient list."
So there are definite ways to keep healthy while grocery shopping. And our careful consumers say that grocery stores shouldn't worry about losing business.
Strouss says that his family actually spends a little more -- yet eats much healthier. So everybody wins.
But what about those restaurants? Some chains, like Pizza Hut, list their ingredients online.
Pizza Hut even has five food items they officially warn as having MSG, such as their wings and salad dressings.
Unfortunately, CBN News found at least nine other food items from Pizza Hut with hidden forms of MSG.
For example, the Sicilian Dough has "wheat protein isolate" and the beef topping -- five hidden ingredients, including "hydrolyzed corn and wheat gluten."
But Pizza Hut is not alone. All of the major chains we investigated had items with hidden MSG.
When deciding what to order, be aware that salad dressing, sauces, meat products and toppings are common offenders.
Classier restaurants are generally safer because they often cook from scratch and add real spices instead of flavor enhancers. But to be sure, you may have to talk to the chef to find out what he or she uses.
So, what should you do in general? Blaylock says, go for the fruits and vegetables.
He has a DVD on nutrition so families will know the good things that counteract MSG's effects. He also warns about aspartame -- the diet sweetener -- which is a related compound.
Blaylock especially recommends dark green vegetables because they are high in antioxidants to defuse MSG damage. They're also high in magnesium -- which can actually block MSG from those glutamate receptors and damage:
"Name something that it doesn't affect," he said, "because there are receptors in the spleen, they're in the liver, they're in the heart, in the GI tract, in the immune system -- they're in the brain, in peripheral nerves, in the vagus nerves, in the heart, and all the arteries."
For centuries, the Japanese have used a flavor enhancer that was seaweed. It had a little glutamate, but it didn't seem to cause any problems.
Then, 100 years ago, they started manufacturing it -- laying the foundation for today's problems: massive worldwide use of MSG, improper labeling, and a federal agency that refuses to label MSG so consumers can make intelligent decisions.