‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: shut your pie hole or, in this case: put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

MSGee Whizz!

A reoccurring 'flavour of the month' topic in the news, and favourite myth perpetually propagated is that monosodium glutamate (MSG) will kill you. Monosodium Glutamate: It's a mouthful, it enhances the savoury flavour of food, and it is often unfairly chastised. Most of us have rolled our eyes at a restaurant as someone in our party zealously informs the waiter they want no MSG in their meal. It's time to make a move on this international mouthwatering myth of mystery.

MSG is the sodium salt of the common amino acid (protein constituent) glutamic acid, which is found naturally in our bodies and many foods. Despite the name, MSG has one-third the amount of sodium as table salt (13 vs 40%). Also despite the name, gluten and glutamate/glutamic acid are not related.
Fermentation of wine and yoghurt

Contrary to popular belief, the glutamate in MSG and the glutamate present in food proteins is chemically indistinguishable and metabolised the same way.

In times gone by, MSG was crystalised and extracted from seaweed broth, now it is produced through the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses (a similar process occurs for yoghurt, vinegar and wine production). These are natural processes at work.

For all the malicious MSG haters, here's a matter to make your mittens miserable... MSG, as already hinted, is found naturally in many foods. The likes of hard cheeses, meat, fish, poultry, tomatoes, mushrooms, soy products, yeast derivatives (autolysed, hydrolysed, extract) and protein isolate (found in protein powders -whaaat?) And lastly... Breast milk! Oh dear, won't somebody think of the children!

We can't have a conversation about MSG without mentioning "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome". The symptoms of which include chest tightness, flushing and difficulty breathing. To date, no properly conducted and controlled double-blind cross over studies have established an association between symptoms of "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" and MSG (1, 2). Similarly, there is no convincing evidence showing asthma or migraines are induced by MSG consumption (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). You can now make your eye roll extra obvious when your friend orders an MSG-free meal.


A fun foodie fact for your pie hole to masticate on is that the average adult consumes 13g of glutamate each day from food proteins and an additional 0.55g from added MSG.

Lastly, a rose by any other name... Other names for MSG you might see on food packaging:

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