MSG and Allergy

It has been discussed lately in allergist office magazines that MSG is not an allergen.  It was never considered one.  What most people don't realize is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance or sensitivity

MSG Sensitivity

Unlike food allergies which affect only certain individuals (only 2% - 5% of the population), and involve an antibody response of the immune system, food sensitivities affect many more people. You can be allergic to carrots and have an immune response to them, and someone else may have absolutely no immune response at all. Sensitivities are a different matter.  There are no antibodies involved and in the case of MSG, the free glutamic acid in it acts in us all in the same way. It is a neurotransmitter - it causes nerve cells to fire. The reason MSG is used by food companies is because in the average human it stimulates the nerve cells in your mouth, as well as the brain. It targets the centers of hunger and taste and smell. If it only worked in 2% of the population, there wouldn't be any money in it. It is basically a drug like alcohol or caffeine. However, the sensitivity response of any individual is simply a matter of degree.

MSG and the Immune System

Unfortunately, MSG also may affect the allergy response as well although it may not initiate it. According to new research from Johns Hopkins, the immune system is disturbed by nervous system over-stimulation.  This is a problem because MSG is a nervous system excitatory neurotransmitter.  Glutamate triggers nerve cells to fire.  See the following link for info regarding this latest research:

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/2000/MAY/000518.HTM

The following is a link to information about glutamate increasing histamine by 150%:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=1381677&dopt=Abstract

This makes the argument by MSG sellers and their spokespersons about MSG being blamed for deadly reactions in restaurants actually caused by true allergens i.e. seafood, peanuts, etc.  disingenuous.  There are attempts by the industry to place the blame squarely on histamine alone as the culprit in these deaths.

Consider:   If the presence of glutamate triggers a more severe histamine response than otherwise would be suffered by the unwitting allergic victim, perhaps MSG did not kill the victim directly, but was actually an accomplice.  Perhaps the individual would have survived had MSG not also been in the offending food.

One has to conclude that if MSG exacerbates an already-occurring allergic reaction, then it would appear to be an extremely dangerous unnecessary food additive to place in restaurant meal.

 

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