MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer hiding in foods you eat at restaurants and in packaged items on grocery store shelves. You can also find it in the spice aisle of most supermarkets. Manufacturers like it because it’s inexpensive and adds flavor to food. But too much of it could spell trouble for your waistline. Why? A new study links MSG with weight gain.
MSG and Weight Gain: Is There a Link?
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who get greater quantities of MSG in their diet are more likely to gain weight. When Chinese researchers compared MSG consumption among more than 10,000 healthy Chinese men and women, they found those who got more than 5 grams of MSG a day in their diet were 33% more likely to tip the scales too high. This was true even after they controlled for other variables that could cause weight gain such as the amount of calories they took in daily, activity level, age and sex.
MSG as a Cause of Weight Gain
This isn’t the first study to link MSG and weight gain. Research carried out at the University of North Carolina found a three times higher rate of obesity among frequent MSG users. Animal studies also confirm these findings.
Most people think of MSG as a flavor enhancer used in Chinese restaurants, but you don’t have to order Chinese food to get a taste of this controversial flavor enhancer. It’s hiding in foods you order at fast food restaurants and in many packaged foods including chips, soup mixes, salad dressings, gravy mixes, soy sauce, lunch meats and more.
Because MSG is in so many higher calorie foods, could the weight gain be an indirect effect of eating these foods? Researchers in this study were quick to point out that they controlled for calories in this study, and the link seems to be real. They believe that some component in MSG alters appetite signals in the portion of the brain called the hypothalamus. This may contribute to overeating and weight gain.
MSG has been blamed for a variety of health problems including Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s little evidence to support these claims, although some people experience a reaction when they eat foods seasoned with it. People who are sensitive to MSG can experience numbness, tingling, a rapid heart rate, anxiety, fast pulse rate, sweating or chest pain. In some cases, the symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from a heart attack.
MSG and Weight Gain: The Bottom Line?
MSG is lurking in many foods you buy at the grocery store, and there’s growing evidence that it can contribute to weight gain. Read labels carefully to make sure you’re not buying foods that contain it, and if you visit a restaurant, make sure they don’t add MSG to their food. It’s another good reason to limit the amount of packaged, processed and fast food you eat.
Food Navigator website. “MSG Linked with Weight Gain: Study”
Natural News. “The Flavor Enhancer MSG Linked to Weight Gain, Obesity”