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Nov 6, 2008 03:31 AM

Does Hydrolyzed Soy Protein = MSG?

Another thread prompted jfood to look up the ingredients in HN hot dogs and this term appeared. He googled and read a few articles but is still a little confused.

Does anyone know the answer to whether HSP = MSG?


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  1. I thought I knew this one but then i looked it up on a USDA site.
    Are MSG and hydrolyzed protein related?
    Yes. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein. It is found in virtually all food and, in abundance, in food that is high in protein, including meat, poultry, cheeses, and fish.

    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. Labeling is required when MSG is added as a direct ingredient.
    For me, all this translates to , "If you don't have a degree in chemistry be VERY careful what you buy."

      1. Thanks guys.

        Can't believe Hebrew National Hot Dogs have to go in the bad food column. Crappy way to start the weekend.

        11 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          Why "bad"? Just to be clear, as the other posts pointed out, hydrolyzed yeast protein is *not* actually MSG but contains an amino acid that is one of the building blocks of MSG. This amino acid is *already naturally present* in the meat that goes in the hot dogs, as well as other foods like mushrooms and parmesan cheese. As long as that brand of hot dogs hasn't been causing you a bad reaction, then there's no reason to avoid it just because it contains the building blocks of MSG.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Then the chemical difference between the two is....?


            1. re: jfood

              Nonexistent. But neither is there any chemical difference between the free glutamate in MSG and the free glutamate found in, eg, mushrooms, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.

              At some point in the last year or two, Maria Lorraine posted a long, detailed, and well-reasoned and -supported discussion of MSG and tyramines. Given that she's makes a living on the cutting edge of these issues, I tend to believe her claim that tyramines may be causing the symptoms people ascribe to MSG.

              It's a hot-button issue for a lot of people, and there's a ton of bad information out there. I personally tend to avoid foods with added MSG because there seems to be a correlation with heavy processing and low quality. But no scientific study has ever been able to document any physical reaction to MSG, even among people who believe themselves to be sensitive to it. Claimed reactions occur at approximately the same rate among those who are given placebos and those who are given huge doses of pure MSG.

              Long and short, if you like HN hot dogs, don't let the hydrolyzed proteins worry you.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  "But neither is there any chemical difference between the free glutamate in MSG and the free glutamate found in, eg, mushrooms, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese."

                  Yes, that's the point I was trying to make.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    sorry for being thick but are you saying that there is MSG in mushrooms exactly equal to that in Accent?

                    1. re: jfood

                      That's kind of like asking if the salt that's naturally occurring in your steak is the same as the salt in your salt shaker. Yes and no: something in it's pure form is almost by definition not the same as something that has been mixed and incorporated into something else. But hydrolyzed soy protein is more like what's in mushrooms than it is like Accent.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Sorry, but jfood thought it was specific. So let's use the salt example to see if that helps. Maybe this is why it is so confusing

                        Salt in the salt shaker is NaCl, sodium chloride. If there is MaCl in the steak then it is exactly the same.

                        Now unto MSG. Is the thing found in mushrooms the same chemical compound as the hydrolyzed soy protein and/or the same chemical compound as that in mushrooms?

                        Jfood is not trying to be difficult, but he is actually getting more confused by the comment "But hydrolyzed soy protein is more like what's in mushrooms than it is like Accent" which leads him to believe they are not the same but similar.


                        1. re: jfood

                          NaCl and MSG are both salts. Salts dissociate in water. Salts consist of tightly bonded ions. In water, these bonds are weakened and the ions become mobile. This accounts for the fact that salt solutions are generally electrolytes. In water, for example, sodium chloride ionizes, or dissociates like this:

                          NaCl (s) à Na1+ (aq) + Cl1- (aq)

                          So salt in a salt shaker is not the same as salt that's been dissolved in a solution like water or blood, i.e. in your steak. In the same way, the MSG in your can of Accent will break down in foods into sodium and glutamic acid, and glutamic acid is naturally found in foods.


                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            To elaborate -

                            MSG is a water-soluble sodium salt of glutamic acid (aka glutamate). As soon as it hits your tongue, MSG breaks apart into a single sodium ion and a single glutamate ion.

                            There are other water-soluble salts of glutamic acid. For example, potassium glutamate is fairly common. But when you put any of these salts in your mouth they dissolve, and the glutamate ions trigger that "umami" response.

                            Foods like mushrooms and products like hydrolyzed protein contain MSG, which is identical to the MSG in a bottle of Accent. But they also contain other glutamate salts and ions, which are chemically distinct from MSG.

                            But irrespective of the fact that the salts are different, they break down when they encounter water and release glutamate ions. And glutamic acid is glutamic acid is glutamic acid. (Well, not quite, it's an asymmetric molecule, so it can be right- or left-handed. The L-enantiomer enhances flavor while the D-enantiomer doesn't. Presumably you don't want to get into that level of detail...)

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              Thanks AB & RL

                              The real test will be a couple of HN dogs. If jfood is OK then good news. Oh the things people do for science.

          2. HSP is fine, but then, so is MSG. Ignoring that, if you want neither, then you should also avoid Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Spices, Natural Flavors, Yeast... HSP and AYE are just ways for "natural" producers to compete.

            1. jfood,

              Why is "MSG" in your mind a "bad" thing?

              Is it because you believe you are allergic to it, so it is "bad" for you in an individual and personal sense?

              Or is it because you believe "MSG" is bad in the way that arsenic is bad?

              7 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Jfood sometimes gets the shakes, feels light headed and falls asleep from MSG.

                Whether it's an allergy or he is just sensitive is semantics, but thankfully it does not get to the level of arsenic.

                1. re: jfood

                  That MSG effect generally occurs (albeit in a very small number of people) when one consumes a high concentration of MSG in a hot liquid on an empty stomach. In studies a similar number of subjects reported like effects after consuming a placebo. I have not heard of adverse reactions from other sources of glutamic acid, so I wouldn't worry about yeast extract or hydrolyzed soy or the rest. Avoid the wonton soup for breakfast, though.

                  1. re: almansa

                    You "wouldn't worry about the yeast extract or hydrolyzed soy or the rest"? The reason you wouldn't worry is because you are ignorant, despite speaking as an authority on the topic.

                    The manufactured forms of MSG (among which are hydrolyzed protein and autolyzed yeast) consist of about 50/50 left- and right-handed isomers of the glutamate molecule (L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid). The right-handed form is much worse for MSG sufferers than the left-handed form (which is the naturally occurring kind).

                    Those studies with placebo that you refer to, well, many of them included chemicals in the placebo that cause similar reactions in the general population as MSG. Don't believe me? Research it and find out. Start with finding out who paid for those MSG studies. Yes, placebos are supposed to be neutral, but if you *wanted* to taint the study, don't you think messing with the placebo would be a good way to do it?

                      1. re: SnackHappy

                        " ... there is no reason to believe that the product called 'glutamic acid' by the glutamate industry will be functionally equivalent to pure L-glutamic acid. There is no reason to believe that their excitotoxic effects will be identical." plus a whole lot more, this is the main resource worth spending time at:

                        "Life on Earth is made of left handed amino acids"

                        " ... when chiral molecules are synthesized in the laboratory from achiral building blocks, equal amounts of L- and D-enantiomers are produced unless painstaking care is taken to introduce an asymmetric agent during during the synthesis." (Scientific American 262(1):110, Jan. 1990).

                        "Manufactured MSG contains over 99 % of the naturally predominant L-glutamate form. To achieve this an old trick is required. In the manufacturing process a fermentation step is introduced in an otherwise chemical synthesis just like manufacturing L-ascorbic acid. Instead of a racemic mixture of left- and right-handed enantiomers as would be the result of a pure chemical reaction, microorganisms are in favor of the natural occurring L-form" While this source claims that manufacturers use the L-glutamate form, to me this only establishes that they *can*, not that they all do all the time--but this establishes that unless care is taken during manufacture, equal parts L- and D-form are made.

                        "Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added to many processed foods at significant levels for flavor enhancement. It is also naturally occurring at high levels in some foods. The enantiomeric composition of free glutamate in foods was examined and all foods analyzed were found to contain D-glutamate." It looks like my 50/50 number may be incorrect in practice, however, the point of my statement was that the D-glutamate is much more harmful, apparently so much so that even the 1% concentration is enough to cause reactions in the MSG-sensitive

                        "Hydrolyzed proteins, or protein hydrolysates contain a form of MSG. Such proteins are
                        acid-treated or enzymatically treated proteins. They contain salts of free amino acids,
                        such as glutamate, at levels of 5 to 20 percent."

                        Note that some sources claim a difference between glutamic acid and MSG, and they are right in the same way that a letter opener is different from a knife. Especially: naturally occurring, exclusively left-handed glutamate may not be that much of a problem for the MSG-sensitive, and thus glutamate can be different. Plus, at a chemical level, clearly monosodium glutamate isn't the same molecule as MSG. However, "processed free glutamic acid" is quite different from naturally-occurring glutamic acid (due to chirality, and presence of other toxins), and such substance by and large causes a reaction in people who are sensitive to MSG, the more common name by which all such food additives are called when referring to those who are sensitive to them. That is, since people sensitive to MSG are sensitive to processed free glutamic acid in an identical (or even worse) way, then to the body, they are identical, and the multiple substances are for convenience called by the same name: MSG.

                        1. re: msgsufferer

                          Thank you for these. I'll be looking at them in more detail when I have time, but from giving them a quick look, I didn't see anything supporting your claims about placebos and the sponsors of MSG studies. Those sources are the ones I was interested in. Sorry if it's there and I didn't see it.

                          1. re: SnackHappy

                            "Detailed analysis of those double-blind studies revealed that subjects, materials used, and protocols for administering test and placebo material, minimized the chance that subjects would react to the MSG test material; and that if subjects did react to the MSG test material, they would also react to the placebo."

                            "FASEB, in its 1995 report to the FDA, acknowledged that it was inappropriate to use aspartame in placebos used in double-blind studies of the safety of MSG (FASEB, 1995) and the FDA did not dispute FASEB's conclusion. However, the FDA still allows the unregulated use of MSG in processed food, basing its approval on the flawed aspartame-in-the-placebo studies; and refuses even to require that when present in food, its presence be disclosed."