What is monosodium glutamate? Is it really bad? – 12.05.2022

Naturally glutamic acid-rich foods such as parmesan cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, seafood, corn, peas, cabbage, spinach, meats, and fish sauces are capable of imparting a persistent flavor after ingestion. This taste is umami, scientifically recognized 22 years ago when specific receptors for glutamic acid were discovered in the taste buds.

According to nutritionist Vivian Lansky, professor of nutrition at UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco), glutamic acid (also known as glutamate) is a non-essential amino acid found in some foods, being part of both the structure of proteins and in free form.

Glutamate is also naturally present in our body. “Its function is to act as an important neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, and when present in food, it imparts umami, one of the five basic tastes of the human palate,” says Lansky.

Monosodium glutamate, a type of salt produced commercially from the fermentation of sugar cane and other similar raw materials, is also obtained from glutamic acid. “The bacteria used in this process convert the sugar into glutamic acid, and when a sodium ion is added, monosodium glutamate is formed. It is used as a food additive in industrial products with a flavor enhancing function,” explains Lansky.

Monosodium glutamate, according to the nutritionist, has been classified as a safe supplement by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) since 1958, the food regulatory agency in the United States, and since 1987 it has been approved by the WHO (World Health). organization) ) for use in food.

For this reason, it has been widely added to ultra-processed foods such as instant noodles, some sauces, snacks, ready-to-eat condiments, preserves, and sausages such as sausages, bologna, ham, and hamburgers. Glutamate is what makes these foods so delicious, according to Regina Stikan, a nutritionist at Santa Catarina Hospital.

Risks of Glutamate

As with any food, care must be taken not to overdo it. This is because more research is still needed on the effects of consuming indefinitely and in large amounts of glutamate. “The results regarding the daily amount allowed for consumption are still inconclusive, but it is known that excess in the long term can cause harm to health, such as headache, impaired memory, cognition, and arousal,” he says. Stickan.

Also, according to the nutritionist, the consumption of glutamate should be avoided when a person, for example, is under stress, since the substance can deregulate the body as a whole. “A person suffering from stress has heart problems, natural arousal and lack of concentration. And when over-processed glutamate is ingested, it ends up amplifying the negative effects.”

Monosodium glutamate is present in soy sauce, snack foods, canned foods, processed meats (sausage, bacon, sausage, ham), ready-to-eat sauces.

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Dietitian Ana Luisa Vilela, specialist in obesity, gastroenterology and nutrition at Beneficência Portuguesa Hospital, says these symptoms occur because industrial versions and high continuous doses can cause glutamate to behave like a neurotransmitter. “Therefore, despite being released by the regulatory authorities, we should limit the consumption of the supplement whenever possible,” he says.

In addition, glutamate consumption does not occur in isolation, as it is present in most industrial products (it is also found in canned and ready-to-eat foods), according to a nutritionist from SBAN (Brazilian Society of Food and Nutrition). ) explains Rosana Farah. “Because these foods contain large amounts of sodium and dyes, preservatives, flavors and other substances that are very unhealthy, they should be avoided. Yes it is”.

Vilela also explains that there are studies that try to link glutamate to obesity, but nothing definitive yet. “In Brazil, there is no data on daily consumption by Brazilians, however in the United States it is estimated that Americans consume 13 grams from protein intake and half a gram of processed foods,” he says.

Monosodium glutamate may help reduce sodium use

Because umami is associated with increased salivation, one of the benefits of glutamate, according to Lansky, is that it can aid digestion and improve food taste. “As a condiment, it can still reduce sodium intake in cooking by replacing some of the salt, as it contains a third less sodium,” he notes.

This means that in a recipe that calls for, for example, three parts salt, a substitution can be made using two parts salt and one part monosodium glutamate, which reduces the total sodium content. “Attention should be given to the consumption of industrially produced foods, which are an important source of glutamate in the diet, but contain other unhealthy ingredients such as excess sodium, sugar and fat, such as snacks, prepared sauces (tomato, lettuce, English, soy sauce) , concentrated broths, semi-finished meat products, ”says the teacher.

According to Lansky, there is no recommendation to avoid using glutamate as a seasoning, but in cooking, the use of spices can be even more beneficial and beneficial. “Turmeric, oregano, parsley, thyme, cumin, and cinnamon, for example, add flavor and also confer other health-important properties such as antioxidant and antimicrobial activity.”

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