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Controversies Around The Use Of Monosodium Glutamate In Food

1168 words - 5 pages

Monosodium glutamate (C5H8NO4Na) also known as MSG is an organic compound derived from glutamic acid that is used as a flavour enhancer for food. Glutamic acid or glutamate is a naturally occurring non essential amino acid that combines with sodium ion to form MSG. Glutamate is produced naturally by our bodies and is also found in meats and vegetables that we eat (Health Canada, 2008, Para. 1). MSG is an odorless, white crystalline compound in its pure form. MSG on its own has a taste similar to salt, but when it is added to a dish the natural flavour of the food itself is enhanced. The functional groups associated with MSG are an amine group and two carboxyl groups. MSG readily ...view middle of the document...

Robert Ho Man Kwok described the strange feeling he felt after eating at a Chinese restaurant back in the New England Journal of Medicine back in 1968. Unable to find the cause, he concluded that the use of MSG in the meal was the direct cause for the symptoms he had. The MSG syndrome complex usually involves the symptoms of: headache, nausea, numbness, weakness, and facial pressure (Zeratsky, 2012, Para. 2). Despite the controversies around the use of MSG, U.S Food and Drug Administration continues to approve the use of MSG in food as scientists are unable to consistently trigger the allergic reactions experienced by some (FDA, 2012, Para. 3). MSG breaks down into glutamate and sodium ions inside the body. Glutamate is a major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are responsible for sending signals between nerve cells. It is essential for the normal functioning of the brain which includes: memory, learning, and cognition. Excessive quantities of Glutamate may overexcite brain neurons and can lead to brain cells and neuron death (Stanford University, 2011, Para. 1). For this reason glutamate is also known as a potential excitotoxin. But this phenomenon is far unlikely to occur under normal consumption of MSG.

Aside from the negative notions by the media, the use of MSG does come with many benefits. MSG effectively reduces the use of salt. The addition of salt is often used to enhance the flavour of food, but many people use more salt than the recommended amount to the point of being unhealthy. According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes around 3400 mg of sodium in their daily diet while the recommended amount is just 1500 mg (American Heart Association, 2014, Para. 1). The high sodium content of salt poses many health risks such as: high blood pressure, stroke, kidney stones, and obesity. MSG contains just one third the sodium content found in table salt (Marie, Para. 4). The European Food Information Council announced that when MSG is used with table salt, it can reduce the sodium intake by 20 to 40 percent (EUFIC, 2002, Para. 4). MSG is known to increase appetite and stimulate the reduced taste buds in seniors which can encourage people stay nourished. Besides being a safe food addictive, MSG can also aid in the digestion of food. A study done in the 2000 by a group of British scientists has shown that glutamate provides most of the energy for digestion to take place inside the intestines (Reeds, Burrin, Stoll & Jahoor,...

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