MSG, the Temptation Molecule

MSG is the commercial additive form of glutamic acid, and it provides the taste sensation known as umami, which is called the fifth flavor. It is naturally found in protein-heavy foods, and may be described as savory, meaty, or more-ish. It is hedonic in that it exists solely in the service of pleasure, and is one of the substances added to give food that irresistible “hyperpalatable” quality. After looking back at what has been discussed so far, we will add to the cache of knowledge.

In one post we talked about excitotoxins, a matter of concern because they cause spastic overactivity that damages neurons, perhaps even to the point of contributing to the neuronal cell death that characterizes a stroke. Where does obesity come into this? Dr. Russell Blaylock has suggested a mechanism: Excitotoxins damage the hypothalamus (weight regulation area) and the pancreas (blood sugar regulating organ) and next thing you know, you have an obesity situation on your hands.

A controversial figure, Dr. Blaylock believes the three main causes of obesity are Vitamin D3 insufficiency, too many vaccinations, and way too much MSG. He calls the substance an excitotoxic food additive, and it is not the only one. The artificial sweetener aspartame, coincidentally manufactured by the same corporation that gave us MSG, is another.

Although the pathways of causation are not clear, researchers have noted that inflammation and obesity are often associated. Many of the foods and additives that obese patients are warned against are also known to cause systemic inflammation. They include sugar, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, casein, aspartame, alcohol, and — wait for it — MSG.

Danger on every side

Other writers also warn of addictive additives. These substances must be powerful indeed, if they can divert young people away from the more age-appropriate goal of wanting to be attractively toned into the wilderness of helpless overeating.

But take an alleged food product like potato chips, which Dr. Pretlow has learned from his young informants to regard as one of the most troublesome things on the market. Chips combine the attraction of a process addiction (plenty of satisfying crunch in the chewing) with the lure of an addictive substance, which salt may very well be. Nobody thinks of it that way, of course, but ask the average diner to stick with unsalted food for a week and see what happens.

As we discussed in “Hyperpalatable Foods: Science or Science Fiction? Part 4,” it is not by accident that foods, in the processing, are made super-tasty and seemingly addictive. They are carefully and deliberately engineered to be irresistible.

While some barriers still remain to keep cigarettes, alcohol, and hard drugs from children, sweets and junk food are not that hard to come by. In some circles, kids learn pretty fast that adults’ desire to be left unbothered can be parleyed into bribes of edible treats.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Photo credit: Ben Chun on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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