Yesterday I gobbled down an entire bag of white cheddar rice cakes. They were so delicious I couldn’t stop. I was in a trance of pleasure and I was helpless! And after I polished off the bag and wished for more, it dawned on me that there must be some MSG hiding in there. That’s the salty additive that makes sane folks eat like the world is ending.
But the label didn’t list MSG. Instead the label said “yeast extract”, which is code-word for MSG. How tricky!
So here’s a quick primer on MSG:
MSG is an “excitotoxin,” which means that it makes food taste amazing . Your brain’s pleasure center goes wild upon tasting it and your appetite balloons.
People eat more quickly and much more food when their meals are laced with MSG.
A Chinese study looked into why MSG-eaters were more likely to be overweight & obese. The simple explanation was that they were eating a whole lot more.
MSG is often hard to identify on a label–it sneaks into things like:
hydrolyzed vegetable protein
sodium and calcium caseinate
hydrolyzed corn protein
texturized vegetable protein
It is also sometimes sprayed on commercial crops to stimulate growth.
- There is some evidence that MSG can cause chronic overproduction of insulin and can also damage the hypothalamus, which controls hunger. The many claims about cancer don’t have strong support.
Chances are that you will have a tough time identifying MSG, especially when eating out. My suggestion is to pay attention to which foods drive your tastebuds unnaturally wild and then assume the worst.
If you already struggle with overeating, MSG is probably a disaster for you. Do your best to avoid it and seek out some healthy herbs & spices instead.