TVP and MSG
In September of 2007, I got in a discussion on the Sacramento Vegan Meetup boards about monosodium glutamate (MSG) in textured soy protein (here).
Textured soy protein is also known as textured vegetable protein, texturized vegetable protein, TVP, and TSP. (See this Wikipedia entry for an explanation of these names.)
The question of MSG in TVP comes up from time to time, and I normally send people a link to the Meetup discussion mentioned above. But I got to thinking that if that page were taken down at some point, I would want the information elsewhere. So I thought I’d put the following synopsis of it on JackNorrisRD.com.
The discussion started out with a link to a video by Dr. Joseph Mercola in which he warns about the dangers he sees in unfermented soyfoods. In the video, Dr. Mercola says:
Soy protein isolate, or textured vegetable protein, is also another food you want to avoid. It is not something made in your kitchen and is produced in large commercial factories and industrial settings and they use an acid wash typically dumped in aluminum containers so it’s loaded with aluminum and they also add very high levels of MSG or monosodium glutamate. And Dr. Blaylock has written a very good book called Excitotoxins and that will explain in great detail how you want to stay away from MSG because it can actually destroy your brain cells. So, any product that has textured vegetable protein is loaded with MSG and should be avoided.
I don’t know anything about his aluminum claims, but from what I have been able to uncover, there are not large amounts of MSG in TVP. I could not find anything on Archer Daniels Midland’s website about MSG in TVP. I just put an email into them (3/14/09) and will post to the JackNorrisRD blog if I get a response. If not, I will try to call them.
In the meantime, Karen’s Kitchen has this to say on the matter:
TVP® does NOT have MSG added to it, but glutamic acid, one of the components of the gluten that is a vegetable protein, will be spun off and bond with sodium in the hydrolizing process, so that monosodium glutamate WILL be naturally formed. However, this is more an issue of hysterical reporting. You will find more naturally occuring MSG in other grain foods than you will in TVP®.
Someone responded to the Karen’s Kitchen article by saying:
> You will find more naturally occurring MSG in other grain foods than you will in TVP®.
This is true however, there are two kinds of MSG, free and bound. It’s the free form that is a flavor enhancer and in natural foods the free form is about 100 times less abundant (see wikipedia table).
The Wikipedia table is no longer there, but I responded:
That chart is a list of glutamate in foods, not monosodium glutamate. The statement above that, “You will find more naturally occurring MSG in other grain foods than you will in TVP®,” would not include bound glutamate because bound glutamate is not MSG. While some glutamate will be spun off of the protein and form MSG during the making of TVP, I’m betting that the vast majority of it remains bound in the protein (otherwise TVP would not be chewy). I tried to find out an exact answer to this, but couldn’t find any listing of how much free vs. bound glutamate there is in TVP or other soy protein isolate. I have recently spoke with Dr. Mark Messina who told me that soy does not contain unusually large amounts of free glutamate.
Even if TVP were to have large amounts of MSG in it, there may be no reason for panic. Here is what an abstract from a 2006 review on MSG says:
This article reviews the literature from the past 40 years of research related to monosodium glutamate (MSG) and its ability to trigger a migraine headache, induce an asthma exacerbation, or evoke a constellation of symptoms described as the “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” … MSG has a widespread reputation for eliciting a variety of symptoms, ranging from headache to dry mouth to flushing. Since the first report of the so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome 40 years ago, clinical trials have failed to identify a consistent relationship between the consumption of MSG and the constellation of symptoms that comprise the syndrome. Furthermore, MSG has been described as a trigger for asthma and migraine headache exacerbations, but there are no consistent data to support this relationship. Although there have been reports of an MSG-sensitive subset of the population, this has not been demonstrated in placebo-controlled trials.