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Side Effects of MSG: Increased Appetite, Weight Gain and More

First you dug into the Kung pow chicken. Then, you dominated the pork lo-mein. And for your final course, you polished off a container of beef dumplings. Sure, Chinese food is caloric—and eating it won't exactly help you lose weight—but at least a hearty meal like that will leave you satisfied, right?


Anyone who's ever sat down to a table filled with spring rolls and fortune cookies knows their stomach is sure to growl just minutes after the leftovers are put away—if there are any.

Why is greasy Chinese grub so hard to stop eating? And why doesn't it leave you satiated? It's just one of the many foods filled with monosodium glutamate (MSG), an additive that makes everything taste more appetizing, increasing your desire to continue noshing. That's not all: MSG also increases appetite by blocking the message to the brain that you've eaten your fill. In fact, one group of researchers found that giving laboratory rats MSG increased their food intake by a whopping 40 percent! And after you've filled your belly to the brim with MSG, the chemical tells your body to pump out insulin, the fat-storage hormone. This surge of insulin causes your blood sugar to plummet and your hunger to return — with a vengeance.

But MSG isn't just in your takeout; it's also in fast-food and seemingly healthy groceries. And, what's worse, skipping products with MSG on the ingredients label won't clear this additive from your diet. It likes to masquerade under less obvious names like hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract and glutamic acid. So how can you stay in the clear? Check the food labels of potato chips, soups, frozen dinners, deli meats, gravies and salty snacks—those tend to be the worst offenders. And before heading to a fast-food restaurant, poke around online to see if the ingredient is in any of your go-to orders.

The bottom line: Sometimes avoiding MSG altogether won't be possible. But by minimizing how much of it is in your daily diet, you can stay on the straight-and-narrow towards weight loss success.



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Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh