by Marion Nestle

Search results: MSG

Jan 24 2022

Marketing to dietitians: the benefits of MSG

Members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics get SmartBriefs sent to their email addresses.

The subject line of this one: “A Surprising Sodium Reduction Tool for Your Clients

 

It is an advertisement; it even says so.  But it does not say who paid for it.

To find that out, you have to click on the subscribe or resource links.

Bingo!  Ajnomoto, the maker of MSG.

All of this is to convince dietitians to push MSG as a salt substitute:

 Extensive research has affirmed not only the ingredient’s safety, but its benefits for sodium reduction. Even the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has recognized MSG as a tool to reduce sodium in the food supply.

Is this a good or bad idea?  MSG still has sodium and its health effects remain under debate.

This kind of sponsorship should be disclosed, front and center, in ads like this, especially because much of the research demonstrating benefits of MSG was funded by guess which company.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics should not permit ads that lack full disclosure.

Members: Complain to the Academy that you want these ads to stop.

Thanks to Jackie Bertoldo for alerting me to this one.

Mar 12 2008

What’s the story on MSG?

Last week, Allison wrote: “I recently read the NYTimes article about MSG [monosodium glutamate] and although you were quoted, I’d love to hear more of your thoughts.”

This is a tough one. My files on MSG go back to 1971 when the FDA said this flavor enhancer, the sodium salt of an amino acid that forms part of virtually all proteins, was safe for everyone “except for those who are individually sensitive to the substance.” By these, it meant people who reacted to foods containing MSG with headaches, tingling, flushing or other such neurological symptoms. Because Chinese food contained a lot of MSG, the symptoms came to be known as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” In the late 1970s, scientists weighed in with reports of placebo-controlled trials that showed no reaction to MSG except for the first half hour after eating it. By 1980, scientists concluded that MSG only caused problems for a small percentage of individuals who had a genetic susceptibility. Placebo-controlled trials continue to find no difference in symptoms when people consume MSG or a placebo. That is why I told the reporter that there was no clinical evidence for problems and why “I thought the issue was settled though I know a lot of people will never believe that.” I wish what I had said next had been included because I went on to explain that such studies cannot account for the very real experience of people who experience symptoms, such as those whose letters appear in today’s Times.

How to make sense of this? MSG susceptibility falls into the category of many other food sensitivities and allergies, most of which are exceedingly difficult to diagnose. The science of food sensitivities, like much of nutrition science, is difficult to do, especially when serious symptoms are relatively rare in the population (it is too expensive to do studies on a large enough sample of individuals to get meaningful results).

If you are one of those people who experiences symptoms from MSG, there is only one thing to do: avoid it. And that brings us to the need to have more informative food labels. One again, we are in the realm of food politics.

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Dec 8 2020

The Cocoa industry’s big problems: farmer poverty and child labor

Everybody loves chocolate but there’s a lot about its production that’s not to love.  It is a classic example of an exploited commodity: cocoa is grown in developing countries, sold at low cost, and processed in industrialized countries which reap the profits.

Chocolate producers are under pressure (not enough, in my view) to pay farmers decently and to make sure their kids go to school, not work.

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about these issues lately.   You can see what the issues are just from their headlines:

These are long-standing issues.  They should have been addressed more effectively years ago.   Here is some background reading:

Sep 21 2020

Industry-funded study of the week: soup prevents obesity?

When I saw the title of this study, I had two questions:

  • Why would anyone do a study like this? (OK, in short-term studies, consuming water or soup before meals reduces immediate calorie consumption, but in the long term?)
  • Who paid for it?  (Getting the answer to this one took some digging).

The study: Association between soup consumption and obesity: A systematic review with meta-analysis. M.Kuroda and K. Ninomiya. Physiology & Behavior,  Volume 225, 15 October 2020, 113103.

Conclusion: “soup consumption is significantly related to lower odds ratio of obesity…suggesting that soup consumption was inversely correlated with a risk of obesity.”

Nov 14 2019

Lab-based meat and dairy: recent trends

No lab-based meat or dairy product is yet on the market, but lots of people are working on such things.  Here are some recent examples, starting with my favorite.

May 30 2019

The latest on CBD edibles and supplements

NutraIngredients.com, one of those informative industry newsletters I subscribe to, has a collection of articles on CBD (cannabidiol, the component of hemp and marijuana that does not make you high but may have some health benefits).

Manufacturers are rushing to produce CBD edibles and supplements, despite concerns about their legal status, as you can see here.

And from this and other sources

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May 27 2019

Industry-funded journal supplement: dairy and health

Nutrition journals sometimes publish supplements on specific topics.  These are paid for by sponsors.  The papers listed here are part of a supplement to the May 2019 issue of Advances in Nutrition.

The sponsor?  As stated in the introductory article,

This supplement was sponsored by the Interprofessional Dairy Organization (INLAC), Spain. The sponsor had no role in the design of the studies included in the supplement; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of the data; in the writing of the manuscripts; or in the decision to publish the results. Publication costs for this supplement were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and are not attributable to the sponsors or the publisher, Editor, or Editorial Board of Advances in Nutrition.

Author disclosures: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

The authors may think they have no conflicted interests, but as I discuss in Unsavory Truth, the effects of industry funding often are unconscious, unintentional, and unrecognized.

As is typical of industry-sponsored studies, the results of these dairy-funded studies are predictable.  From looking at these titles, you can predict that they will show dairy foods to have positive effects on pregnancy, lactation, child growth, bone density, and cognition, and no negative effects on mortality, metabolism, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

The overall conclusion is also predictable:

In conclusion, the systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the present supplement support adequate milk consumption at various stages of life and in the prevention/control of various noncommunicable chronic diseases.

If the dairy industry wants the public to believe these results, it should not be paying for them. 

Supplement—Role of Milk and Dairy Products in Health and Prevention of Noncommunicable Chronic Diseases: A Series of Systematic Reviews

 

Jan 28 2019

New Lancet report: The Global Syndemic: Uniting Actions to Address Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change

The Lancet has been busy.  Last week, it published a blockbuster report on the need for worldwide dietary changes to improve human health and that of the environment.  I posted about this EAT-Forum report on Friday.

Now, The Lancet releases yet another report, this one taking a unified approach to dealing with the three most important nutrition issues facing the world: Malnutrition (undernutrition), obesity, and the effects of our food production and consumption system on the environment and climate change—for which this report coins a new term: The Global Syndemic.

This report breaks new ground in identifying the food industry as one of three main barriers to ending this “Syndemic.”  I’ve added the numbers for emphasis.

  • Powerful opposition by [1] commercial vested interests, [2] lack of political leadership, and [3] insufficient societal demand for change are preventing action on The Global Syndemic, with rising rates of obesity and greenhouse gas emissions, and stagnating rates of undernutrition.
  • New social movement for change and radical rethink of the relationship between policymakers, business, governance and civil society is urgently needed.
  • The Commission calls for a global treaty to limit the political influence of Big Food (a proposed Framework Convention on Food Systems – modelled on global conventions on tobacco and climate change); redirection of US$5 trillion in government subsidies away from harmful products and towards sustainable alternatives; and advocacy from civil society to break decades of policy inertia.

Wow.  This is telling it like it is—at long last.  From the press release:

  • A key recommendation from the Commission is the call to establish a new global treaty on food systems to limit the political influence of Big Food.
  • The food industry’s obstructive power is further enhanced by governance arrangements that legitimise industry participation in public policy development, and the power that big corporations have to punish or reward governments by relocating investment and jobs.
  • Regulatory approaches to product reformulation (eg. salt and sugar reduction), labelling and marketing to children are needed because industry-led, voluntary approaches have not been effective.

Yes!

The documents

The press

▪ The Guardian
The Times (London)
Irish Farmers Journal

Additional press, posted January 30

Newswires (syndicated in international outlets):

UK:

US:

Rest of world: