Presents the scientific evidence that glutamate—aka MSG—in processed food contributes to a suite of preventable inflammatory diseases.
Fat, Stressed, and Sick makes the case that processed food compromises health not just because of added sugar, salt, and fat, but also because these foods contain significant amounts of glutamate—aka MSG. MSG makes food deliciously addicting. What was not well-known until described here is that most of the MSG in processed food is created during food manufacturing. As the authors show, food processing of protein alone adds 10 grams or more a day of MSG to the average American diet—a statistic that may surprise you.
The book details the research linking dietary glutamate to a suite of inflammatory diseases: obesity, diabetes, autism, addiction, depression, and cancer, to name a few. Understanding the role of MSG in disease became the quest of author and biochemist Katherine Reid when she learned that her young daughter’s autism symptoms were associated with inflammation of the brain. Reid made the connection between inflammation and glutamate in the diet—a connection amply supported by other studies. A deep dive into food manufacturing patents and FDA regulations revealed that, in addition to industry practices that create MSG during food processing, MSG is also found in ingredients labeled “hydrolyzed protein,” “yeast extract,” and even “natural flavors,” misleading labels that disguise a food’s true MSG content. In what became an experiment in her home kitchen, Reid examined every ingredient on every food label, removing all items with MSG and replacing them with whole foods. The results were swift and undeniable. Reid’s discovery that what one ate mattered was the start of a program of food-based solutions to chronic inflammatory illnesses, through which now, a decade later, she has helped thousands of people.
The idea that large amounts glutamate in the diet jeopardizes health is supported by decades of research, despite efforts by the glutamate industry to discredit the scientific evidence that MSG poses a risk. Some would have you believe the science is settled. It is not. This book explains the science behind why we crave the MSG in processed food, why it is hidden, how it is making us sick, and what we can do about it.
Katherine Reid, PhD, is a biochemist and the founder of Unblind My Mind, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving health through informed food choices. Previously she worked in the Silicon Valley biotech industry in the development of cancer pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. Today she works with individuals and families in collaboration with the medical and biotech communities to devise data-driven food solutions for chronic inflammatory illnesses. She lives with her family in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Barbara Price, MS, MA, PhD, has studied topics ranging from climate change to protein biophysics and has turned her passion for science into a career as a science writer and editor. As a senior science development editor for major educational publishers, she helps textbook authors turn highly technical information into narratives that teach. As an editor and science writer, she supports scientists who have their own stories to tell. Price has also authored original content for young learners and general audiences. She lives in Northern California.
Could a diet full of leafy greens and devoid of processed foods help cure America’s health woes, from obesity to cancer? Reid, a biochemist, along with science writer and editor Price, emphatically argues, ‘Yes.’ Blame monosodium glutamate. They think glutamates go beyond just enhancing flavor, causing inflammation, exciting the brain, and preventing people from feeling satiated and full. Remember the Lay’s potato chip slogan, ‘Betcha can’t eat just one?’ Reid feels her youngest daughter, who was diagnosed with autism at age three, turned around when the family gave up processed foods and switched to what the authors call a Reduced Excitatory Inflammatory Diet. This ‘REID’ meal plan, outlined here with menus and ingredients in appendix B, includes snacks like a hard-boiled egg and 10 carrot and fennel sticks with guacamole on one day or a half a sweet potato with flaxseeds and chard on another. Is it worth essentially giving up most dairy products and breads? Skeptics may be unconvinced, but there’s certainly no harm in eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole foods.
Katherine Reid brings to light a fascinating perspective focused on the role of dietary MSG and brain function. Her insights provide an important piece of the puzzle as it relates to the ever-increasing rates of neurocognitive disorders.
Fat, Stressed, and Sick is a beacon of hope for all families impacted by autism or other developmental or behavioral issues. This is a must read for parents and grandparents alike.