Guilty confession: I’m a huge fan of Chinese food – the greasier the better.
Now obviously… it’s not something I eat every day, or even once a week.
And having LIVED in China, there were big concerns over food quality constantly – but one ingredient in particular consistently drew the most attention – MSG.
What is MSG and what does it actually do to you?
What Researchers Found MSG Does To Your Body
What MSG Does In Your Body
I hope this stuff doesn’t scare you or deter you from eating your favorite greasy Chinese Friday-night takeout, but here it goes:
MSG Can Lead to Type II Diabetes, Obesity & Heart Disease In Mice
In the first study, researchers found that injecting mice with MSG led to “significant inflammation, central obesity and type II diabetes.”
MSG Causes Cell Death – The More MSG, The More Neurons Died (Bye Bye Braincells)
Another study wanted to see what would happen if MSG was injected into mouse neurons – with differing concentrations of MSG. Then the amount of cell injury/death was analyzed 24 hours later.
What the researchers found was a bit shocking: the amount of cell death was directly related to how much MSG was injected – at 3, 30, or 300 uM, % cell death was 25%, 40%, or 50%.
THEN, they wanted to see if MSG’s damage to cells was dependent on time – so they were injected with another dose and cells were observed incubating over time.
30 minutes after injecting with MSG, swelling was observed.
After two hours there was severe swelling, and after 12 hours, the neurons had ruptured.
MSG And Headaches
Another study wanted to test for adverse effects (like headaches), after consuming MSG.
They took 14 men and they drank sugar free soda that either had MSG or a placebo.
The group that had the MSG (vs placebo) had a “significant increase in reports of headaches and muscle tenderness in the head.”
Brain Cell Quality in Rats
A fourth study had newborn rats that were injected with MSG once every other day until the 10th day – and then compared to a control group given a normal saline solution.
After about half a year, the rats were killed and researchers looks at certain cells in the hypothalamus involved in growth and development – and found that the number, length, weight of cells all decreased in the MSG group.
Bye bye brain cells!
And MSG In The Brain Cells of Cute Little Hamsters
Another study done on Siberian hamsters found that they can actually go into a state of mini hibernation every day to conserve energy – but by injecting them with MSG, it reduced how many hamsters could enter the state (and how deep) by 50% – by damaging a certain area of the brain.
In addition, these hamsters tended to be fatty in general.
In the picture above you can see how the MSG dramatically decreased the fiber density of the brain cells in this region.
When In Doubt… Use This Principle
Now every once in a while you’ll meet someone who says, “Oh, C’MON Alex don’t be such a hippie. Artificial sweeteners haven’t been proven to cause any health problems.”
Maybe you’re investigating some kind of additive that you aren’t quite sure about… but does that mean you should still consume it and risk it with your own body?
One principle I follow quite a lot is the “precautionary principle” which means if you don’t know, then DON’T take a chance.
If you DON’T know whether something is good or bad – then avoid it.
If you DON’T know if a chemical has been tested or not – avoid it.
If you DON’T know if a supplement will help or not – avoid it and save the $50 on the bottle.
If you DON’T know… then don’t take the risk.
Let someone else be the guinea pig, err… hamster.
What’s The Verdict on MSG? & Today’s Tiny Habit
Today’s tiny habit is simple: remove MSG as much as possible from the foods you consume.
It’s not always easy when you’re eating out, but it’s easy to avoid if we’re buying boxed foods.
It’s also sometimes hidden under the term “flavor enhancer” – so watch out for that.
And as to whether or not you should continue eating your favorite Chinese food… well that one’s up to you :-).
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18178378 | http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802046/ | http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19438927 | http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21158092 | In hamsters: http://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/294/1/R255