Sneaky Names for MSG: Check Your Labels.

Via Dr. John Douillard
on Apr 25, 2013
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The dangers and prevalence of MSG will shock you!

This flavor enhancer is linked to a host of health issues, including fibromyalgia (1), obesity (2), fatty liver (3), high insulin and blood sugar (3), high cholesterol (3), liver toxicity (3), metabolic syndrome (4), high blood pressure, disturbance to the gut-brain connection (5), neurological and brain damage (6). The danger lies in that MSG is almost impossible to avoid.

Why? The reason is twofold:

1. There are over 40 different ingredients that manufacturers use that all have MSG.

2. It is not just a flavor enhancing additive—it is a natural by-product of processing proteins. These MSG by-products are found in many of your favorite organic health foods.


What is MSG?

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, got its reputation as a flavor enhancer extracted from seaweeds in China. In the early 1900′s, the process was perfected in Japan and became commercially available.

In the 1960′s, the phrase “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” was coined by the New England Journal of Medicine. Twenty minutes after eating Chinese food, some sensitive people would experience tingling, numbness, brain fog, chest pressure and pain.

In the 1970′s, researchers found that pharmaceutical MSG would kill brain cells in a laboratory. Shortly thereafter, they realized that commercially available MSG would have the same effect.

MSG is simply the addition of one (mono) sodium molecule to the amino acid glutamic acid, which is found naturally in many foods. When any amino acid builds up in the body, most people have the ability to break it down in the liver without alarm. However, some amino acids, such as glutamic acid (glutamate) and aspartic acid (aspartame or “nutra sweet”), may be more difficult to convert and flush out of the body.

Both glutamate and aspartame cause the nerves to fire, and when they are in excess, the nerves can fire excessively and cause a form of neuro-toxicity. Even bland foods will taste fantastic when high levels of glutamic acid are used as flavor enhancers.

Not Just a Flavor Enhancer

By now most of us have heard of MSG’s role as a flavor enhancer. But how does this work? Concentrated free glutamic acid or MSG act as nerve stimulants and will change how the taste buds taste food. A yucky or even a really bad tasting food will taste fantastic when high levels of glutamic acid are introduced as a “flavor enhancer.”

The insidious nature of MSG is that it may occur whenever a protein is broken down in the body.

When folks are sensitive to MSG, they are reacting to free glutamic acid in the blood. Remember, MSG is made when the free glutamic acid binds with a sodium molecule. Whenever protein is broken down in the body, glutamic acid is freed from a protein (in which it naturally occurs), and you have the potential of free glutamic acid building up in the blood and a possible toxic MSG reaction.

 MSG Reactions: Whole vs. Processed Foods

While this happens naturally when ingesting protein-rich whole foods like grains, meats, dairy, and even vegetables, the glutamic acid is released in concert with many other amino acids, rather than in high concentrations on its own. As a result, unadulterated whole-food-based proteins do not cause a toxic MSG reaction in the body (7).

On the other hand, many processed foods—including organic health foods—contain processed proteins that harbor free glutamic acids.

The FDA does not require manufacturers to label these foods MSG unless the “added ingredient” is 99% pure MSG.

If MSG is produced as a result of protein hydrolysis or a byproduct of protein processing, the FDA does not require MSG to appear on the label. Moreover, a product labeled “No MSG” may still have MSG or free glutamic acid as a result of protein processing, as long as pure MSG was not added.

The truth is that protein-hydrolysis-based glutamates or MSG are found in just about every highly processed food. Even vegetable proteins are hydrolyzed to make veggies burgers and many other frozen or pre-prepared “vegan” and “health foods.”

When purchasing processed “health foods,” look for these common ingredients loaded with MSG that do not require an MSG listing on the label:

> Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
> Textured Vegetable Protein
> Yeast Extract

Unadulterated whole-food based proteins do not cause a toxic MSG reaction in the body.

The Bottom Line

MSG or free glutamates as a flavor enhancer is found in highly processed foods, usually under an alias to make it impossible to know for sure what you are eating.

MSG or free glutamic acid is also found in many health foods as result of vegetable protein breakdown or hydrolysis. These MSGs are not added into food as a flavor enhancer, but exist in varying quantities in many foods as a result of protein breakdown.

Some folks break down glutamates better than others, so when it comes to glutamates as a result of protein breakdown, this is a highly individualized issue. However, MSG as a flavor enhancer should simply be avoided.

Hidden names for MSG and free glutamic acid:

Names of ingredients that always contain processed free glutamic acid (7):

> Glutamic Acid (E 620)2
> Glutamate (E 620)
> Monosodium Glutamate (E 621)
> Monopotassium Glutamate (E 622)
> Calcium Glutamate (E 623)
> Monoammonium Glutamate (E 624)
> Magnesium Glutamate (E 625)
> Natrium Glutamate
> Yeast Extract
> Anything “hydrolyzed”
> Any “hydrolyzed protein”
> Calcium Caseinate
> Sodium Caseinate
> Yeast Food
> Yeast Nutrient
> Autolyzed Yeast
> Gelatin
> Textured Protein
> Soy Protein
> Soy Protein Concentrate
> Soy Protein Isolate
> Whey Protein
> Whey Protein Concentrate
> Whey Protein Isolate
> Anything “…protein”
> Vetsin
> Ajinomoto

Names of ingredients that often contain or produce processed free glutamic acid (7):

> Carrageenan (E 407)
> Bouillon and broth
> Stock
> Any “flavors” or “flavoring”
> Maltodextrin
> Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
> Anything “ultra-pasteurized”
> Barley malt
> Pectin (E 440)
> Protease
> Anything “enzyme modified”
> Anything containing “enzymes”
> Malt extract
> Soy sauce
> Soy sauce extract
> Anything “protein fortified”
> Anything “fermented”
> Seasonings

Glutamic acid found in unadulterated “whole food” protein does not cause adverse reactions. To cause adverse reactions, the glutamic acid must have been processed/manufactured or come from protein that has been fermented (1).

The following are ingredients suspected of containing or creating sufficient processed free glutamic acid to serve as MSG-reaction triggers in highly sensitive people (7):

> Corn starch
> Corn syrup
> Modified food starch
> Lipolyzed butter fat
> Dextrose
> Rice syrup
> Brown rice syrup
> Milk powder
> Reduced fat milk (skim; 1%; 2%)
> Most things labeled “Low Fat” or “No Fat”
> Anything labeled “Enriched”
> Anything labeled “Vitamin Enriched”

Unfortunately, many protein powders contain processed free glutamic acid.

Protein Powders: Be Selective

Unfortunately, many protein powders contain forms of soy and whey protein, as listed above, that will always contain processed free glutamic acid. Since free glutamic acids are a product of processing proteins, it can be tricky to find a protein powder that does not potentially contain them. The key is the amount or concentration of these glutamates in each product, as well as gauging your own personal level of sensitivity and ability to break them down, that becomes the issue.

Don’t Stress—Just Eat Whole Foods!

A list so long can be overwhelming, and can provoke the feeling of, “What is there left to eat?” When trying to avoid MSG, the main focus should be on a diet of whole, unprocessed foods including vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds, organic and grass-fed meats and organic dairy.

Make sure your proteins are clean, preferably organic and grass-fed and cook them at home or enjoy them at a restaurant whose practices you support, rather than eating excess processed foods.

After looking at the above list a few times, you’ll get the hang of which kind of ingredient names connote MSG and easily avoid them.

As Jack Lalanne advised, “Don’t eat anything with a wrapper!” And if you can’t do that, try to avoid processed foods with more than five whole-food ingredients.



1. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2012 Jul 4. Epub 2012 Jul 4. PMID: 22766026
2. Br J Nutr. 2011 Mar 24:1-10. Epub 2011 Mar 24. PMID: 21429276
3. J Lipid Res. 2009 Aug;50(8):1521-37. Epub 2008 Nov 11. PMID: 19001666
4. Eur J Pharmacol. 2011 Jul 15;662(1-3):1-8. Epub 2011 May 1. PMID:
5. Digestion. 2011;83 Suppl 1:37-43. Epub 2011 Mar 10. PMID: 21389727
6. Acta Neurol Scand. 2010 Feb;121(2):120-6. Epub 2009 Oct 5. PMID: 19804473


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


Source: Uploaded by user via CanadaPharmacy on Pinterest



About Dr. John Douillard

Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP is a globally recognized leader in the fields of natural health, Ayurveda and sports medicine. Over the past 30 years, he’s helped over 100,000 patients repair their digestive system and eat wheat and dairy again. He is the creator of, a leading Ayurvedic health and wellness resource on the web with over 6 million views on YouTube. LifeSpa is evolving the way Ayurveda is understood around the world with over 1000 articles and videos proving ancient wisdom backed by modern science. Dr. John is the former Director of Player Development and nutrition advisor for the New Jersey Nets NBA team, author of six books, a repeat guest on the Dr. Oz show, and has been featured in Woman’s World Magazine, Yoga Journal, the Huffington Post and dozens of other publications. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Receive his valuable health reports in your inbox - sign up for free! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For information on Dr. John's newest book, Eat Wheat, please visit, and connect with Dr. Douillard on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eat Wheat is now available in bookstores. It can be ordered from Amazon, and all major booksellers.


18 Responses to “Sneaky Names for MSG: Check Your Labels.”

  1. BENNYB says:

    Love it! If it comes in a box or package… DON'T EAT IT!!!

  2. jrock says:

    Dr. Douillard has made so many fantastic contributions to the propagation of Ayurveda around the world. This article is quite eye-opening. I just have a quick question regarding the protein powders: I have a protein powder that is free of whey and soy proteins, but contains "pea protein"…..should I be wary of this also?

  3. Lyn Ashby says:

    This is a very informative article. I truly believe if the ingredient lists has some ingredients that doesn't sound natural or contain numbers they are not very good for your health. Most of these "added" ingredients are meant to prolong shelf life of products and not good for our body and health.

  4. Frank says:

    Thanks for the fantastic article! I had no idea MSG masquerades around so inconspicuously with other names. I've recently adopted what the author recommends above by avoiding processed foods, and only using natural ingredients. I'm a little disappointed about the protein powders though, I do like them after a workout.
    I'll be passing this article on to friends and family, great info!

  5. Watisha says:

    Hi! Thank you so much for this. What is your take on NatureBox?

  6. kathymac says:

    An answer to prayer! As one of the "highly sensitive" I appreciate the education for the public. Being "highly sensitive" does not mean you are picky, hard to please, or other such adjectives. Eating whole foods keeps me healthy and less illness is my goal; not changing the world.

  7. Pame says:

    great article, often when I am at a store looking for the harder to find cheese that does not have enzymes and asked what I"m looking for they always look at me like I am a crazy person. The guy at whole foods one day told me they didn't sell foods with msg in it. I told him if he took all the things out of the store that did have msg he would have a very tiny store left. People just don't get it or don't want to get it because it's way too hard for them to avoid and they don't see the affects of it. IF you are someone like I am that is highly reactive to it in small amounts you become totally aware of what is in every food you eat. Also celiac so that makes it even harder but the gluten is much easier to avoid than the msg that is for sure.

  8. Tiny Dancer says:

    Hi jrock, I have the same question. My protein powder is mediclear-SGS and it contains pea and rice protein. Ever since I have been taking it I have become very gassy. urgh. However I just looked at the coconut milk I was using to mix it with and it contains Carrageenan but doesn't have the numbers (E 407) following it. So two questions and I'm not sure how to get an answer on this site. Is the pea and rice protein ok? And is Carrageenan ok if it is not followed by the number (E407)? I'm going to try it with just water tomorrow and see if it makes a difference.

  9. Tiny Dancer says:

    I just had a stem cell/bone marrow treatment down in Mexico and have to be very careful about what I put in my body. I am so grateful to have found this site. I printed out the list and take it to the my market when I shop. It is a health food store yet I am blown away how something can say organic, natural, non GMO, non gluten, etc and yet still have MSG in it. The coconut milk I was buying has Carrageenan in it. No wonder my stomach is upset every day. The protein powder I am using has pea and rice protein but no whey or soy. Pea and rice were not listed yet I read another site that said anything that has the label protein has some form of MSG in it. Does anyone know if pea and rice protein are okay? It may be the protein powder I'm using as well. It was prescribed by my Fibromyalgia doctor in the states, however my dr. in Mexico says no protein powders as they are all processed.

  10. Celestial says:

    What a fantastic article. I’m sharing it with many friends and family. I suffer horribly from fibromyalgia and have read the research that directly links MSG as a possible cause and continuing source of fibro flares. I have to be so careful with what I consume and understand how we as a society are slowly poisoning ourselves while processors make money off of making us sick.

  11. Simon Chu says:

    Good write up ! However one thing I have against it is the stero-typing of the MSG being linked with Chinese food? Are we saying that all Chinese food served in the eateries will contain MSG? WHat about other cuisine by different nationalities? Are we saying that thse dont contain MSG except for the Chinese cuisine served? I feel this is sweeping (as I see the picture of a pack of fried noodle and a pair of chopsticks on it) and to my mind is offensive!

  12. Kim says:

    Hi Tiny Dancer – Carrageenan is really bad for more then one reason, I noticed the other day that our almond milk also has it. After an exhaustive trip to the grocery store (finding no packaged milk without it) we decided to make our own from now on. As for the pea protein, I was in the health food store yesterday looking for some and she advised me that it is a very difficult to digest protein, and to start at about a third of the recommended amount, then to slowly increase intake as your digestive system gets used to it. So I imagine it would contribute to gas and bloating. Otherwise I think pea and rice are safe… Great article, thank you for the info!!

  13. D. Radcliffe says:

    You said anything fermented contains msg. Would kefir milk be one of those or would it be a naturally occurring msg that the body could handle? Thank you for your answer.

  14. john says:

    There are almond milk products that do not contain carrageenan. Our family buys the nature's place almond milk. This is a product of the hannaford's grocery chain. I'm sure if you look around you can find a store that has such a product. On another note I wish Tom's of Maine would take that crap out of my toothpaste!!

  15. T. Hubbard says:

    Is L-Glutamine which I see listed in my protein powders the same thing as Glutamic Acid?

  16. bevcat5 says:

    It seems to me that people are brainwashed to think they need milk. I've hated milk since about 5th grade and don't miss it. Now all these health experts are saying to use soy milk or almond milk – why?! I don't use milk at all. And I absolutely hate all those goofy milkshakes too. I'm so glad I found out recently that my diet has not suffered one iota by skipping milk! and I'll continue to skip it. I'm very happy to drink my coffee, teas, water and occasional wine.

  17. Raine says:

    You are taking this general information too personally. Get over yourself

  18. Andy says:

    I have a 9 NatureBox snacks in my pantry that I checked just now. Most are pretty good, only have a few ingredients (generally a good thing), although a couple had maltodextrin on the short list, and only one had a bunch of processed ingredients. Luckily, when you choose your snacks the ingredient list is right there under the picture so you know what you're getting.