Obesity. It doubles a dog’s chances of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a laundry list of other health problems. Fifty percent (50%) of US dogs are overweight, and MSG – just one form of free glutamate – is a huge culprit. MSG can triple a dog’s insulin levels making even the most physically active animals fat. It’s also a suspected neurotoxin. And it litters our pet food supply under at least 12 different names.
If you see any of these ingredients on the label, put the bag back:
- Any type of hydrolyzed protein (e.g. hydrolyzed vegetable protein)
- Any type of protein isolate (e.g. soy protein isolate)
- Any type of textured protein (e.g. textured vegetable protein)
- Natural flavors or natural flavorings (e.g. natural beef flavor, natural chicken flavor, natural bacon flavor, natural cheese flavor, natural smoke flavor, etc.)
- Autolyzed yeast
- Hydrolyzed yeast
- Yeast extracts or yeast nutrient or yeast food
- Soy extracts
- Soy concentrate
- Sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate
- Disodium inosinate or disodium guanylate (which are flavor enhancers effective only in the presence of MSG)
- MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
- Monopotassium Glutamate
- Glutamate, Glutamic Acid, or free glutamate [i] and [ii]
- And more…
MSG is a salt of glutamic acid, a non-essential amino acid. A salt is simply a chemical formed by the interaction of an acid and a base – in this case sodium. “Non-essential” simply means that the body is perfectly capable of making the amino acid on its own and doesn’t need to get it from food. MSG occurs naturally in soybeans, seaweed (also called “kombu sea vegetable”), sugar beets, and sea tangles.
MSG is just one of several forms of free glutamate used in foods. All of the forms are bad for your pet. Glutamate is used by manufacturers to intensify flavors in meats, baked goods, and other foods. Free glutamate is created when proteins are broken down. The broken-down proteins then bond with the sodium that’s in the food to create MSG.
Consider what the FDA says about hydrolyzed protein:
“hydrolyzed proteins, used by the food industry to enhance flavor, are simply proteins that have been chemically broken apart into amino acids. The chemical breakdown of proteins may result in the formation of free glutamate that joins with free sodium to form MSG. In this case, the presence of MSG does not need to be disclosed on labeling.” [emphasis added]
Natural Flavors. It’s the category most manufacturers use to mask MSG. According to some reports, 80% of all “flavored” foodstuffs are MSG. [iv.]
It’s a misleading term and it should not be assumed that just because something is “natural” over “artificial” it’s somehow safer for us or our pets. Anything that has been concocted by a physical process (e.g. solvent extraction, heating, enzyme action, distillation) from a plant or animal origin can be called a “natural flavor” regardless of the unavoidable but unintentional changes in the chemical structure that result. [i]
Take Hickory Smoke Compensate (HSC) for instance. It’s a food flavoring popular in the US that has tumor initiating and promoting potential. A medical university study induced cancerous lesions in rats with a diet consisting of 5% HSC. The FDA has issued no warnings.
A word on proteinates and chelates. We see proteinates and chelates on the labels for pet food very often as the source of trace minerals. And they’re included in some very well respected brands. We may see copper proteinate, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate or manganese proteinate on a label for instance. Proteinate by definition is a compound of a protein. Proteinated and chelated minerals are substances used in animal feed where the mineral has been combined with amino acids so as to improve absorption in the body.
The concern arises around the nature of those amino acids – specifically whether hydrolyzed protein was used as the source of that amino acid – thereby adding free glutamate or MSG into the mix. If this is indeed the case, one could argue that the glutamate in mineral supplements is present in such minute quantities… In any event, here’s one dog food company’s position on the matter: http://www.natureslogic.com/faq/#faq3. And no doubt, suppliers of animal feed supplements use MSG-catalyzing hydrolyzed proteins. Here’s an example: http://www.chaitanyagroups.com/animal-feed-supplements.html.
Now on to the effects of MSG…
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that people who use MSG are more likely to be overweight than people who do not use it, even though they have the same amount of physical activity and calorie intake.[i]
The British Journal of Nutrition published a study which showed the ability to induce obesity in newborn mice via MSG to be nearly 100% reliable. This news makes MSG intake for puppies especially concerning.
“Newborn mice were injected subcutaneously with 3 mg MSG/g bodyweight… 16% died before weaning. Of the survivors, 90% or more became markedly obese. Mean carcass lipid content was increased by about 120% in both sexes at 20-30 weeks old.”[v.]
In addition to obesity, MSG or glutamate is a suspected addictive neurotoxin that has been associated with chest pain, headaches, numbness, asthmatic reactions, brain damage (in rats, rabbits, chicks and monkeys), depression, irritability, and mood changes, reproductive dysfunction in males and females, nervous symptoms (decreased sensibility in neck, arms and back) and irregular heartbeat. It’s also on the FDA’s list for further study for possible mutagenic teratogenic, subacute and reproductive effects.[i]
MSG does not need to be in our pets’ food and shame on the manufacturers for putting it there in disguise as “natural flavors” and other things. If the reasons above aren’t enough to strip this ingredient from our dogs’ food supply we should consider where it comes from.
China. In all likelihood the glutamate dumped into the dog dish is coming from a country plagued with a toxic human food chain (read From China with Luck). According to recent US census data, China is the third largest importer of this category of flavoring food additives (slightly behind India and Indonesia). [iii]
The flavorings market totals about $6-billion-a-year and leaches over 1,323 substances into our food supply just to make food more appealing. The FDA by its own admission has inspected about 100 of the 190,000 foreign food plants. At their current inspection rates, they would need 1900 years to inspect them all.[i] And those are just the ones producing food for human consumption. There’s no one but us looking out for our pets.
Below is a short list of treats containing any of these Dirty Dozen likely aliases for free glutamate and MSG. And if you see proteinate or chelate on an ingredients panel for pet food, it’s worth learning more from the manufacturer:
- Beggin’ Strips (read Where’s the Beef for more on these and other popular treats)
- Beneful (Baked Delights and Snackin’ Slices)
- Bil-Jac (Training Biscuits, Gooberlicious)
- Blue Buffalo (Blue Bits, Blue Bites, Blue Stix, Super Bars, Blue Bones, Wild Bites, Blue Wilderness Wild Bites)
- Blue Dog Bakery (Doggie Paws, Softies, Super Stars, Live Well, bakery Bones, Perfect Trainers)
- Buddy Biscuits (Soft and Chewy, Chewy Tricky Trainers)
- Busy Bones
- Canyon Creek Ranch
- Carolina Prime
- Cesar Treats
- Dentastix (from Pedigree)
- Gimborn Pro Treat Raw Naturals
- Goodlife Recipe
- Halo (Spot’s Chew)
- Merrick (all flavors of the Sausage Dog Treats)
- Milk Bones
- Milo’s Kitchen (read our blog post for more on Milo’s)
- Mother Hubbard
- Pedigree Good Bites
- Pur Luv (various treats like Healthy Support and fish recipe stix)
- Purina Pro Plan (various treats including Roasted Slices)
- Red Barn (Deli Stix, Naturals Natu-Rollies, Meat Filled Bones, peanut butter filled hooves, cheese and bacon filled hooves, Fetchers Dog Bully Stick Chews)
- Real Meat Jerky Treats (Jerky Bites, Bitz, Long Stix, Large Bitz)
- Solid Gold (Beef Jerky, Turkey Jerky, Lamb Jerky, Tiny Tots)
- Waggin Train
- Wellness (Wellbites)
- Zukes (Mini Bakes, Z-Bones, Mini Naturals, Jerky Naturals, Natural Purrz)
[i] A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, 7th edition. Ruth Winter, M.S.
- Citric Acid
- Corn Starch
- Anything Ultra-Pasturized
- Powdered Milk
- Malt Extract
- Anything protein fortified
- Anything enzyme modified
- It’s also possible that proteinate or chelate indicates the presence of MSG (e.g. zinc proteinate).