I had some Thai food yesterday over a business lunch. I actually chose the restaurant, knowing that the chance of additional MSG in the food was high. The restaurant was just an easier choice, and besides, I’ve been avoiding it for so long, it’s always kind of interesting to see how I react. Well react I did, with the most crippling headache for about eight hours, and a “restless leg” sleep – always a sign that shit is in my body. So today I feel shattered and out of whack. At least I didn’t get all of the symptoms I usually get – racing heart, diarrhoea, heaty headache, and more.
I discovered a low tolerance for MSG not long after arriving in Singapore eight years ago. I would go to all of the wonderful hawker centres in Singapore with my mates and be screwed for the rest of the day or evening. But the worst has always been Thai restaurants, and it doesn’t matter how posh the restaurant, they all seem to overload their food with “taste good salt” – as the old aunties like to call it round here. But it’s not just Asian food. I can’t eat any junk food without getting itchy skin or feeling nauseous, and if I have soy sauce, chips, or any other crap, I have a bad night’s sleep. So this is not just an Asian food discussion, as many seem to think.
You see, once I realised what was going on, I started to research MSG and it’s quite frightening what I found. For every article on why MSG is bad, you’ll find 20 talking about its virtues. Check out Wikipedia’s definition, which I’d say is pro and definitely unbalanced, and here’s MSGTruth, an article on Blessed Quietness and Truth In Labelling – all of which fall into the “anti” category. But there is progress – while looking for anti-MSG articles today, more came up higher in the search results. Eight years ago I had to dig deep to find anything anti – so it seems momentum is building.
For people like me, pro-MSG researchers say I’m allergic to it (which is 1% of cases), whereas anti-MSG research suggests I’m sensitive to it. This is a big difference, because being sensitive to it is a very good thing – when you are sensitive to it you avoid it because you have such a bad time on it, whereas those who are not sensitive keep munching away on the shit. The reality is, just because you don’t have a reaction doesn’t mean it’s not doing bad things to your body.
The worst thing is, MSG is bloody everywhere. If it’s in a packet it’s got MSG, in a tin it’s got MSG, diet dairy products have MSG, cheese flavouring of any description is MSG, plane food is full of it, all pre-prepared food is full of it, and I could go on and on and on. But the labelling professionals have gotten very good at hiding it. When it says “no MSG added” on the label, it doesn’t mean there isn’t already MSG within the ingredients, just that none was “added.” If the word extract is on a label, that’s MSG. It’s seriously everywhere, and when you really start looking into it, it’s quite frightening and very difficult to avoid.
MSG has been linked to all of the brain diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s and Autism) and the majority of heart attacks are attributed to it. It’s hard to prove any of this, but I am sure the FDA and other legislating bodies are quite aware of the consequences. However as the food production companies and lobby groups certainly don’t want it to go away – as it makes the production of food significantly cheaper – still we suffer in its evil grip. If you want a list of what to avoid, check this link out.
Some may argue that it’s all bullshit and not as bad as all this, but as a person who is sensitive to MSG, I will always stand on the other side of that fence. There is NO doubt in my mind that at some point in the future, MSG will be declared bad for us, as was finally achieved with smoking.
In the meantime, any chance I get to join the anti-MSG debate and push the argument further out into the world to ensure the pro-MSG lobby groups no longer dominate, then I will. I just believe that everyone needs to be able to make a conscious choice about whether or not they want to eat it, and when so much effort is made to convince the public of its virtues, one really should be hearing alarm bells. Unfortunately most people do not have the time to address it because there are just more important things to focus on – and why not, when you don’t suffer the side-affects? It is this that concerns me most – a type of apathy – because we are all unknowingly poisoning our bodies, and MSG is only one additive within that lethal mix. I truly think it is criminal what’s going on in our food-chain – all to save a few dollars.
If you’re with me, keep the anti-MSG arguments going or share this if you like it. So much progress has been made, but like all things, we’ve got to keep at it so we’re not drowned out by big corporations focused on profit and not the health of their customers.
In the meantime, I’ll be avoiding MSG like the plague once again… well whenever I consciously can. And here’s some final food for thought – make sure you check out children getting brain lobotomies, when in reality, they just needed to take MSG out of their diets.
Yours, without the bollocks
PS: if you like what I’ve got to say, you can follow me on Twitter @withoutbollocks, although I’m not manically active yet.