Friday, August 29, 2008

MSG Adds Both Flavor and Pounds

tidbits that tantalizeFriend or Foe?

Did you watch the Olympics?

Whether you watched the games or not, chances are you've indulged recently in an age-old American tradition: Chinese food. Who can resist the savory blend of spices, rich tastes, and tantalizing blends of sweet and sour? But, is it really healthy for you?

That depends. There are debates about the true health status of Chinese food - especially food flavored with monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is a flavor enhancer used extensively in Chinese cuisine. Though it's now easier to order dishes without MSG, it's still a pervasive additive.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health teamed up with counterparts in China to study the impact of MSG. They were particularly interested in MSG's effect on weight. And, of course, what better place is there to study MSG than rural China?

The scientists studied 750 Chinese men and women between 40 and 59. The rural setting was selected to minimize the introduction of processed foods containing MSG, which would complicate measurement. The participants were divided into 3 groups, depending on the amount of MSG they added to their food. In all, over 80 percent of the participants used MSG on a regular basis.

The participants using the most MSG were three times more likely to be overweight than those who used no MSG. "Ours is the first study to show a link between MSG use and weight in humans," said Ka He, M.D., assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health. "We found that prevalence of overweight was significantly higher in MSG users than in non-users."

Let the controversy continue…

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other health organizations around the world have concluded that MSG is safe," He said, "but the question remains - is it healthy?"

So, if you're still hungry for Chinese, consider going the MSG-free route. What you'll sacrifice in flavor you'll save in pounds.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To explore a world of healthy, natural foods, see this from The World's Healthiest Foods.


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