The Surprising Ingredient Causing Weight Gain

Say it isn’t so! A recent study out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill cites what animal studies have hinted at for years: MSG (aka monosodium glutamate) could be a factor in weight gain.

The study focused on 750 Chinese men and women, ages 40-59, living in 3 rural villages in north and south China. Most of the study subjects prepared their meals at home without commercially processed foods and roughly 82 percent used MSG. Those participants who used the highest amounts of MSG had nearly 3 times the incidence of overweight as those who did not use MSG, even when physical activity, total caloric intake, and other possible explanations for body mass differences were accounted for. The positive correlation between MSG and higher weight confirmed what animal studies have been suggesting for years.

Maybe you’re wondering what monosodium glutamate is exactly, and what you can do to avoid it in your diet. MSG is a flavor enhancer in foods—some believe it may even provide a fifth basic taste sensation (in addition to sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), what the Japanese call “umami” (roughly translated as “tastiness”). MSG is considered an “excitotoxin,” since its action in the body is to excite neurotransmitters (important brain chemicals), causing nerve cells to discharge and also exciting nerves related to taste. Perhaps this ability to excite these nerves is a factor in an association between increased MSG usage and weight gain.

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