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Maltodextrin Blues
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Joined: 24 Jul 2006
Posts: 112
Location: Camp Hill, PA

PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:29 pm    Post subject: Maltodextrin Blues Reply with quote

I am lucky enough to have married a woman who has allergies to msg and some other flavor enhancers, most notably maltodextrin. Her reactions are not life threatening, but immediate, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and gastrointestinal in nature. I have on several occasions been left in nice restaurants to dine alone while the side effects "took their course", so to speak. As a result, I have to pay special attention to the groceries I buy and ingredients I use to cook my family's meals. I learned to read ingredients lists for almost every prepared food I buy. I suggest you do the same; it’s not a bad thing to know what you are eating.

My research may be dusty, as we discovered this issue some time ago. But, msg is listed by the fda as a flavor enhancer that is “generally recognized as safe”. I’m not sure exactly what that means, other than it probably is not a toxic substance. I’m guessing NutraSweet and Splenda have similar classifications. And as mentioned here previously, some folks don’t mind consuming msg. In fact, some folks like to eat it. My local asian grocer sells the stuff in one kilo bags. It is my understanding that if a foodstuff has been processed with msg and is to be sold in the USA, the package containing said foodstuff should identify msg as an ingredient. Several of the ingredients I purchase from my neighborhood asian grocer do not include any English on the labels other than an ingredients list and a label that says “no msg”.

I haven’t focused on hydrolyzed vegetable protein before as it has not yet been linked to one of my wife’s sudden “events”. But a quick google tells me that it is a flavor enhancer in savory foods which, as a result of the way it is manufactured, may include up to 20% msg. So this is an instance where one may consume msg in a food which is does not specifically list msg as an ingredient.

Natural flavorings or “spices” are generally a crap shoot. Many packaged foods list natural flavorings. They could be anything the fda considers “natural” and of small enough amount to not need to be specifically identified on the list. And sometimes, natural turns out to be a little too natural for my missus. Since ingredient lists are arranged in order of most amount first to least amount last, I look for natural ingredients to be at the tail end of the list. If it’s in the middle, I leave it in the store.

Maltodextrin is a bigger issue for us. Food companies try to make their goodies taste better. Very evil. Food companies that make fat free or reduced fat products have to remove the yummy ingredients, like fat, and then find a way to make their goodies palatable. Most companies therefore turn to substitutes for normal, more natural ingredients and, you guessed it, they turn to flavor enhancers as well. They recognize that consumers have a preconception that msg is bad, so they turn elsewhere. I’m sure there are a bunch of flavor enhancers, but since my wife doesn’t clearly have a problem with them, I know very little about them. I can tell you that the presence of maltodextrin is highly prevalent in low fat foods and prepared foods. So low fat mayo, hamburger helper, canned soup stock, and bottled barbeque sauce are not in our pantry.

So, I’m curious: are there other folks out there that have issues with flavor enhancers?? Are there other enhancers that enhance a little too well?? Why do people feel so strongly that msg is evil?? Any of my research out to lunch??

I love to eat.
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Guest Erin

PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:03 pm    Post subject: MSG and other woes Reply with quote

Hi there! Problems with flavor enhancers? You bet.

Last year I started having migraines - horrible, literally blinding headaches that lasted hours and sometimes for several days.

Thankfully, I talked with a very knowledgeable chiropractor about my problem, and he had me pare down my diet significantly. I started out with ONLY fresh vegetables and fruits, any kind I wanted, and unprepared, raw meats which I seasoned with only salt and cooked on my own. I felt immediate relief. I can't stress that enough for anyone reading this who might be experiencing any ailments.

Slowly over the next weeks, I added rice, beans, single spices, and other foods extremely low on the allergy list. Through a process of elimination I found I am sensitive to wheat/gluten, eggs, nitrites/nitrates, and - you guessed it - MSG. Even when I avoid my other triggers, anything MSG-related can send me into a migraine tailspin for days.

Basically, I am allergic to the post-WWII diet, which is full of food additives and other non-food grade ingredients. My husband, who is diabetic, and I have revamped our diet. We eat foods that are as close to their original state as possible. I make fantastic wheat-free and gluten free breads and baked goods, and great desserts free of processed sugar. We eat organic foods as often as possible, and that’s not snobbery – it’s for health. We eat a lot of vegetables, beans, fruits, brown rice, and less meat, but we are not ascetics: Many people can't tell we're restricting our diets at all. It really doesn't take much longer to cook wholesome foods, and the best benefit is that I'm nearly headache-free, and my husband and I are healthier, more active, and happier.

Thor - your post is great, and your research is current. The FDA does allow MSG in foods, unfortunately, but has guidelines on its labeling. However, there are many, many names for actual MSG, and many, many more names for additives that contain MSG or produce MSG during processing, as you have noticed. It’s important to know what those names are.

Also, MSG is classified as an excitotoxin, so it certainly is toxic.

Check out these websites on MSG, its code names, and how it affects the body. Also, Natural Cures for Headaches by Dr. Cass Ingram is a fantastically helpful book that deals with more symptoms than just headaches. This distinguishes between natural and processed glutamic acids This is well written and lists toxic effects of MSG this mentions your friend with seaweed MSG, probably its original origin a handy list of what to avoid from the Truth In Labeling site NPR on headaches and MSG, as well as other triggers Excitotoxins, pregnancy and children dangers; also mentions NutraSweet and artificial sweeteners

Regarding the last website: It is a crime, if you want to know why people think MSG is “evil”, that the most susceptible victims of MSG are also the most targeted: children. Think of the way candies, snack packs, lunches, and more are advertised, and that they are not just laced but doused and infused with MSG and other unnecessary additives.

Advice for anyone wanting to live a healthier life: If you don't know what an ingredient is, don't buy the product.

I hope this has been helpful! God bless.
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Joined: 31 Dec 2006
Posts: 4
Location: Las Vegas

PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:22 am    Post subject: MSG in many common food items Reply with quote

Try to find a can of Campbell's Soup without MSG on the label. You'd better be in the mood for tomato soup because nearly all the other favors contain it. If you are a sufferer of the inner ear condition, Menniere's Disease you know that MSG is behind the flare ups that include extreme nausea and lack of balance that can last for several days. Even though MSG is a "natural" substance derived from soy beans, it doesn't mean it's a healthy substance when consumed in the amounts contained in a great many of the foods we tend to think of a "safe" or "healthy".
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Joined: 24 Jul 2006
Posts: 112
Location: Camp Hill, PA

PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:53 pm    Post subject: MSG Invades Earth Reply with quote

Guest Erin, thanks for the info. Sorry for your luck, although it sounds like you may be a happier person as a result.

My mom-in-law did the migraine thing with aspartame. She even experienced "spotty" vision. It did not look fun. She eventually learned that, not only is she allergic to aspartame, but five or six diet cokes per day is not healthy.

After reviewing some of the info you suggested, I discovered some harbingers of msg that weren't in my current synonym list. Autolyzed yeast, for instance. I also discovered items in my pantry that I had previously ruled msg free that contain some of these substances. My wife has not been bothered by them, but the fact they were there is worrisome. In fact, the significant prevalence of these substances is shocking.

I had been pleased, if not down right excited, to find a can of Cambell's Select Soup, Ham and Bean, that did not clearly contain msg or maltodextrin. It is one of the few cans of soup that do not. However, after checking out the websites you suggested and re-reviewing the ingredient list, I found at least three other forms of msg in those cans of which I was unaware.

I recently bought some canned, organic soups. Since organic food is grown with fewer chemicals, it is also cooked with fewer chemicals. Still, you have to check the labels. Unfortunately, the overwhelming use of vegetables frighten off my children. And the underwhelming depth of flavor bores the adults and brings out the hot sauce. And at almost $3 per can, it’s a little tough to take. But I’m committed to trying a few. It’s nice to have a can of soup on hand in case an emergency, hot, 5 minute lunch is mandated.

Our kids are 6, 2 and 8 weeks. We do not yet know if they share my wife’s allergy. But, as I think you have found, my family and I seem to be happier and healthier as a result of paying attention to what is in our food, and by cooking with fresh, wholesome ingredients to avoid my wife's allergies. And (this is the fun part), it means that I get to cook.
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Guest Erin

PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 7:58 pm    Post subject: Gratitude Reply with quote

Dear Kathy,

Wow, I am interested to learn about another MSG-related malady - It seems there are a lot I don't know about! Thank you so much for sharing. You can bet I'll be looking that up soon.

Dear Thor,

I am so glad that my comments were of use to you! I love to be able to help others avoid the experience I've had.

And yes, cooking with flavor quickly is a challenge. I'm sorry about your experiences with the bland soup! We try to buy organic fresh foods and toss them in with recipes we learn or make up, rather than depending on the tastes of food packagers. (Your comments about your kids and vegetables made me laugh out loud. You might find some ways to 'hide' vegetables, like blended into hummus or bean dip, or diced finely into pasta sauce, or creamed into cheese dips... just for fun.)

Kathy and Thor,

I think you are both right about the amount of MSG and MSG-related ingredients in pre-packaged foods. I have no doubt that in small amounts, most people can handle this ingredient. However, when our foods are labeled somewhat deceptively, or at least not clearly, it leaves the American public not only clueless about what they're consuming, but about how much of it they're consuming.

Thank you both for your responses. I wish you good eating and great health!
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure about maltodextrin being a "flavor enhancer." It's basically just a carbohydrate. It's moderately sweet, so in that sense it could be considered a flavor enhancer. Also, apparently the process by which it's manufactured may result in traces of glutamic acid (i.e. free glutamate), but in very low concentrations.
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Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1304
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

here's what the government approves:
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are very right. We should read and think about what we are eating. Sorry to hear about your wife. But you should be more careful with what you make. Even if its not serious these things can produce many problems.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's hard to live with a person that has allergies. My son can't eat anything that contains the multidophilus 12 candida substance so I must be really careful what I buy. Usually the labels don't say about all the ingredients so I always have to do some research before buying a new product.
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Joined: 24 Jul 2006
Posts: 112
Location: Camp Hill, PA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 2:13 pm    Post subject: Tolerance Reply with quote

I recently read an all too short discussion lacking informative details that suggested that food allergies are not as prevalent as folks claim. That in fact many alleged food “allergies” are actually food “intolerances”. It suggested that true allergies produce serious reactions such as loss of motor control, breathing distress, shock, and risk of dirt nap. It further suggested that issues, such as my wife’s described above, ones that involve gastrointestinal malfunction, rashes, or other temporary bodily nuisances, are really intolerances. As for definition: allergies = a direct bodily reaction to a consumed substance; intolerances = a body’s inability to process a consumed substance in a normal fashion. Can anyone offer any insight??
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Joined: 21 Dec 2005
Posts: 108

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 3:38 pm    Post subject: Odd definition of an allergy Reply with quote

Having lived with allergies all my life (thankfully to pollen rather than food) this distinction between an "intolerance" and an "allergy" strikes me as being a bit bogus. From my understanding, one of the hallmarks of an allergy (which is an immune reaction) is a histamine reponse -- which can include rashes, headaches, stomach pains and shortness of breath. However, the severity of the histamine reaction depends on the person and on the amount of allergen encountered. I guess the big question would be -- does the condition go away when the person takes an antihistamine? If so, that sounds like an allergy to me.

There's a good explanation of the chemistry of histamine and anti-histamines here:
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Joined: 07 Jun 2007
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Location: Athens, WV

PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2008 2:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hadn't been over here for awhile, and I'm glad I saw this thread. Perhaps I can add something about my experience.

I have a corn intolerance (not allergy... my reactions take 24-36 hours to manifest). In the 4+ years I've known about this, when I'm off the corn, I'm a different person. When I get into it, I feel horrible.

Long story short, MSG and maltodextrin are two items that are usually corn derived, so I avoid them like the plague. MSG can hide under many different names like "natural flavors" or "spices". The FDA allows companies to put their "secret ingredients" under these generic names to protect their recipes.

As a general rule (except for well known organic food companies)... if it contains the words "natural flavors", it's a good bet it's corn derived in one way shape or form. For example... on Breyers Ice Cream, "Natural Flavors" means it uses flavor induced from corn alcohol.

Now, if it says "artificial flavors", it's often petroleum based... yes, comes from oil. Really makes one want to eat that stuff, eh?
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So maltodextrin is bad for you because of the glutamate in it or because its corn derived?
I just bought some "instant ice tea" with maltodextrin in it. After reading this thread I am a bit concerned.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 5:55 pm    Post subject: Food Allergies Reply with quote

I'm so happy I found this site. I'm new to the world of food allergies. I have always had skin reactions like redness and irritation & just figured it was chemical sensitivity to detergents or fabric softeners. After a particularly bad reaction (hives, swelling and difficulty breathing), my husband filled me with antihistamines which releived the symptoms. That was it - I went to the doctor's office for blood tests. Now I know I'm allergic to rye, barley and cultivated oats (among other airborne allergens). My trouble is trying to read between the lines on a food label. Something as innocuous as "flour" can contain barley without saying so. Short of switching to a diet of raw fruits, vegetables and meats, I can't trust what I'm eating. I'll try the slow integration of one grain at a time until I learn what will cause a bad reaction. If anyone here knows how rye, barley or cultivated oats are hidden in foods, I'd appreciate learning that.
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Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 3:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check out this google search:

It appears that if you have a (I hate the word as a medical description, but I'll use it anyway) "normal" immune and endocrine system, maltodextrin poses no problem. BUT, if you have had allergic reactions to various foods, maltodextrin can cause problems because it can be manufactured from various different food sources which you may be allergic to.
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