‘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, July 3, 2013

Applications of MSG: From Unsavoury to Flavoury

Despite what the unreferenced skeptics and conspiracy theorists say, we learned from "MSGee Whizz" that monosodium glutamate (MSG) isn't going to harm us. The sodium salt of the common amino acid, glutamic acid, is actually found naturally in many foods. No data supports the inept phrase "I'd like my dinner without MSG please" in the 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' fad. In fact, perhaps ordering your dinner with some extra MSG is a good idea. Intrigued? Join us as we explore the tastier side to this demonised ingredient.

How's this for a crazy idea: Feed elderly people food laced with... ehem, I mean, enhanced with MSG.

Back to basics. Taste begins on the tongue (Fig 1). Glutamate elicits the 'meaty' or 'umami' taste in food when it interacts with glutamate receptors on the tongue. Most people ordering their meals MSG-free don't know that glutamate is the gut's main energy source during digestion, or that glutamate receptors are also present in their stomachs. When these stomach receptors are stimulated by glutamate, gut functions like motility (movement) and enzyme secretions are improved - which in turn improves micronutrient absorption. MSG: Movement and Secretions in the Gut.

Fig 1: Location of taste buds corresponding to the 5 tastes.
Papillae refers to 'nipple-like' projections, in this case bumps on the tongue
Adapted from: The receptors and cells for mammalian taste, Nature 2006 Fig 1

In other news, the umami taste increases the production of saliva and does so for the longest time compared to the other 4 tastes (bitter, sweet, sour and salty). Many elderly people experience dry mouth which impacts oral hygiene and the ability to masticate and safely swallow food. MSG also improves immune function, and umami (MSG) has the highest correlation with appetite and meal satisfaction compared to the other 4 tastes. MSG: Masticate with Salivary Goodness.

What do these pieces of 'useless' information have to do with "feed elderly people food enhanced with MSG"?

Bear with me for just another minute. Good nutritional status is important for quality of life (QOL) and health - both are key determinants in morbidity and mortality. The elderly are at a higher risk of developing malnutrition, which is both preventable and reversible. 

Elderly people have a general decline in sense sensitivity, including taste... Can you see where this is going? MSG may be the flavour enhancer to get gramps enjoying (and finishing) his meal.

Get your pie hole meditating and masticating on a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, "A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered". MSG: Making Supper Great!

In the context of older people, MSG has much potential. When food has MSG in it: it tastes better, is more accepted, increases saliva production, improves immunity, boosts mood and promotes digestion which enhances micronutrient absorption. All of these impact nutritional status and QOL which is particularly important in the elderly.

1 comment:

  1. Makes me feel better about buying a pound of aji-no-moto last week.