Umami is not the same as MSG

Umami is not the same as MSG

You may hear some nutrition "experts" claim that umami and MSG are one and the same, but this is far from reality. Back in 1909, Ikeda (the Japanese chemist who discovered the umami flavor) began industrially producing glutamate from fermented vegetable proteins, and marketed it as Ajinomoto ("essence of taste").

Its popularity took off in Japan, and soon it became a household staple, not only in Japan but throughout Asia. Decades later, Ajinomoto came to the US, using the name "Accent," i.e. monosodium glutamate, and was initially popular for adding flavor to military rations. Today, it is clear that MSG is not a safe food additive.

Dr. Russell Blaylock, a retired board-certified neurosurgeon and author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, explains that MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees -- and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, and more.

Part of the problem is that free glutamic acid (MSG is approximately 78 percent free glutamic acid) is the same neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas, and other organs use to initiate certain processes in your body. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to claim that consuming MSG in food does not cause these ill effects, many other experts say otherwise.

According to Dr. Blaylock, numerous glutamate receptors have been found both within your heart's electrical conduction system and the heart muscle itself. This can be damaging to your heart, and may even explain the sudden deaths sometimes seen among young athletes.

Eye damage, fatigue, disorientation, and depression have all been linked to MSG consumption, and that's not even including the short-term reactions known as MSG Symptom Complex that can occur in certain groups of people, namely those who have eaten "large doses" of MSG or who have asthma. Symptoms related to MSG Symptom Complex may include:

Tingling and numbness Burning sensation Facial pressure or tightness

Chest pain or difficulty breathing Headache Nausea

Rapid heartbeat Drowsiness Weakness

Why MSG Is Dangerous: Free Glutamic Acid

While MSG and umami may be chemically similar, there is an important distinction that significantly affects the way it reacts in your body. Umami flavor, or natural glutamic acid (glutamate), found in natural foods is "bound" to other amino acids or proteins. The glutamic acid that is MSG is not. As reported by Smithsonian magazine:3

"Glutamates that occur naturally in food come intertwined with different chemicals or fiber, which the body is naturally inclined to regulate, explains Amy Cheng Vollmer, professor of biology at Swarthmore College. MSG, however, comes without the natural components of food that help the body regulate glutamic levels. It's like taking an iron supplement versus obtaining iron from spinach or red meat: the iron supplement creates an expressway between the iron and your bloodstream that you wouldn't find in natural iron sources. 'The bottom line here is context is everything,' Vollmer adds."

As explained by Eden Foods, when you eat glutamic acid in real foods, your body controls how much is absorbed. Excess glutamic acid is passed off as waste, not stored in your body. They continue:

"In the chemical MSG manufacturing plant, however, the bound glutamic acid… is broken down or made 'free of protein' by various processes (hydrolyzed, autolyzed, modified or fermented with strong chemicals, acids, bacteria, or enzymes, which are often genetically modified) and refined to a white crystal powder that resembles salt or sugar. Chemical MSG contains 78% glutamate, 12.2% sodium, and 9.6% water. This chemical form is known as D-glutamic acid. It usually contains some L-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid, and other contaminants. This factory-made version causes serious reactions.

From our research there is no D-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid or other contaminants in the protein found in plants and animals, only L-glutamic acid. When pure, manufactured, MSG is ingested a rapid effect occurs from the glutamate. This 'free of protein' glutamic acid, or glutamate unlike the naturally occurring 'protein bound' glutamate, is not attached to other amino acids. The normal digestive disassembly process does not happen because there are no 'peptide' bonds to slow the process. The sudden increase in free glutamic acid is then rapidly absorbed and can raise blood levels of glutamate eight to ten times causing toxicity."

As mentioned earlier, if you are looking to shed pounds, consuming MSG is not a good choice. After analyzing MSG intake and weight gain among more than 10,000 Chinese adults, past research found that those who ate the most MSG (about 5 grams a day) were about 30 percent more likely to become overweight than those who ate the least (less than a half-gram a day).