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.

14 Responses to “TVP and MSG”

  1. Caela Says:

    That’s really interesting information about TVP.
    I happen to one of those people who has some sensitivity to MSG (I flush, get extremely nauseous, and end up with a headache.) I haven’t experienced any of those symptoms from eating TVP – so from that, I would support the idea that if it does have any MSG, it is a very negligible amount.

  2. Rick Says:

    Is this the Wikipedia table (about 1/4 way down the page) you referred to?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamic_acid_(flavor)#Research_into_health_effects

  3. beforewisdom Says:

    This article is far from scientific, this article is far from conclusive, but it raises some interesting thoughts to consider


    If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2005/jul/10/foodanddrink.features3

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Rick,

    I’m not sure if that’s the same table, but thanks for linking to it.

  5. Rick Says:

    Study: MSG intake associated with overweight in Chinese adults.

    Click here.

  6. NoNameAtPresentPlease Says:

    We are facing a crisis with respect to our daughter, 23 year medical school student, diagnosed with motor neuron disease. There is no family history of the disease and MND is associated with middle age to old age. She has been a vegetarian (egg and cheese included) from birth. She was in high school tennis team, little bit indifferent to nutrition (like kids of her age), but no other bad habits (drinks etc.). Since joining college 6 years ago, she has been into too much of TVPs (morning star veggie buffalo wings etc.) and we have been scratching our for possible cause. Not everyone who smokes gets cancer, but there seems to be something going on the way we live (and try to make quick bucks hiding facts etc.).

  7. Jack Norris RD Says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about that. I hate to ask the obvious, but has she had her vitamin B12 levels checked?

  8. NoNameAtPresentPlease Says:

    Yes, we have her tested for all including extensive tests at Mayo clinic and most tests except EMG are negative and based on EMG and physical observations (knee reflex) etc., they are leaning towards MND (process of elimination). So, unless some more disease that mimics MND are identified and shown to be the case for her, we might have to accept MND and her physical condition shows that there is something extra ordinarily wrong.

  9. Jack Norris RD Says:

    I spoke with Beth Ragan at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) on March 25, 2009. She told me that at this time, ADM sells 60 TVP products and two of the 60 have MSG added as part of the artificial beef flavoring.

  10. Des Says:

    “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” – Anyone who believes these lies is either very unaware or very niave. The process (fabricated lies) that brought the toxic Aspartame to market, is no different from MSG. The corruption from the FDA and the companies conducting the clinical trials that have brought these poisons to market is obscene.

  11. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Des,

    How are you so certain that all the researchers investigating MSG are corrupt? MSG is a common, natural component of foods, and whereas too much of anything can be a problem, I wouldn’t just assume MSG causes problems.

  12. Lulu Says:

    One last thing – amino acids are designed ( by nature) to work together. They may be, as Jack Norris RD says, a “common, natually occuring component of foods” but in food straight out of the gorund, they will be combined in delicate balance with each other, not seperated out with one element heaped in huge quantities in a processed food.

    Aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and all other known amino acids are now being used, or experimented on as food additives, we must stop ALL of this experimenting, and get back to food as it was intended by nature. We also need to stop calling everything that originates in food natural, because once it has been altered, it most certainly is NOT natural – even if it is allowed to be called such by law.

    Asking a company if they add MSG does nto answer the question, because the MSG is now being altered just enough to call it something else. Take soup stock, for example, Many companies now slap a big NO MSG label on their packages, but add hydrolyzed protein to the ingredient. Hydrolyzed protein is MSG.

    Don’t believe any of this? Google around and buy yourself some feed lot food for cattle. Read the ingredients. the stuff is LOADED with glutamate because it fattens the calves quickly for slaughter. And here, you’ll find the truth on the label, because the slaughterhouses don’t care what’s in what they feed their stock, so long as it fattens them quickly. .

  13. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Lulu,

    I don’t mean to imply that there is no amount of glutamate that could be harmful, I’d imagine there is. I’m not putting your second post through – it’s much too long with no concrete information. If you have a citation or, better yet, a link for any of the studies you mention feel free to follow it up.

  14. Mary Finn Says:

    It is indeed a migraine trigger. Since losing a job, I’ve been eating more products marketed to workers and lower-income people. While having no problem with the taste, I’ve gotten roaring headaches from it. No breathing problems or flushing, which I HAVE experienced with cured meats that contain MSG. Either the MSG levels are lower, or the lunch meats that trigger the additional reactions simply contain too many nitrates.

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