Glutamate - flavor enhancer in foods


Glutamate gives many foods a special touch. As a flavor enhancer in food glutamate is controversial, many people notice an intolerance or allergy to the substance. Is glutamate now pleasure or danger? We took a closer look at glutamate.

Glutamate as a flavor enhancer

The stomach growls loudly, but the desire to cook is limited. Luckily, there are still soups in the cupboard. Quickly tore open a bag of Asia noodles, doused with boiling water, stirred and ready. Hmm, tastes really intense and somehow own - just umami.

Umami is the Japanese word for delicious and spicy aroma. The sonorous flavor enhancer, typical of the Asian cuisine, is called glutamate in this country. Glutamate is sweet, sour, bitter and salty the fifth flavor.

What is glutamate?

Glutamate is an endogenous protein that is naturally found in foods such as tomatoes, cheese, meat and soy.

Man needs the substance as Messenger substance (neurotransmitter) for the transmission of information in the brain. Glutamate is bound to proteins in many foods and is unbound as a free glutamate. Taste-enhancing effect only the free glutamate.

The food industry has been using the umami effect for over 40 years, using glutamate in the production of ready-to-serve and frozen meals, as well as spice blends (such as vegetable stock) and snack foods. Because the neurotransmitter can intensify the intrinsic taste of foods such as herbs, vegetables and meat, which is lost during heating or freezing, in the brain.

Glutamate is obtained by fermentation from starchy plant products.

glutamate intolerance

Nevertheless, glutamate intolerance or allergy occurs in some people. The taste enhancer caused negative headlines in the 70's with the so-called "China Restaurant Syndrome".

At that time, many visitors complained of eating side effects like eating Chinese food

  • nausea
  • a headache
  • strong palpitations
  • Tingling or itching in the neck area
  • feeling hot
  • dry mouth

Also, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or flatulence after eating glutamate-containing foods is sometimes reported.

Allergy to glutamate not detected

Scientists came to the root of the possible connection between symptoms and glutamate consumption.

In a large-scale study, subjects were given food with and without glutamate, without being able to tell the difference. The result corresponds to the evaluations of today's scientists: they could not establish a concrete connection between the symptoms and the intake of glutamate.

An allergy to glutamate could therefore not clearly proven become. It is believed that the cause of the commonly reported glutamate intolerance is elsewhere. However, occasional malaise occurred when eating dishes containing large amounts of glutamate on an empty stomach.

With Gluten, Incidentally, glutamate has nothing in common with the gluten protein in cereals, against which many people have an allergy.

Glutamate is considered harmless

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), glutamate has no harmful effect on the organism.

Even the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has "no objections to the occasional use of small amounts of glutamate in the preparation of food".

Due to the scientifically proven safety there is no upper limit for the daily dose of glutamate. Foods to which glutamate has been added as a flavor enhancer, however, must be treated accordingly marked his.

As an additive in baby food, sodium glutamate is prohibited in Germany.

Glutamate: side effects and consequences

Anyone who has no problems with glutamate-containing food, his soup from the bag in the future, without hesitation eat. However, the protein component is also added to foods of low quality. In this meadow, any nibbles such as chips are very tasty and the enjoyment of unrestrained.

One of the side effects of glutamate is therefore certainly overweight. Nutrition experts therefore recommend high-quality foods such as organic products, which manage without any added glutamate. This includes fresh herbs and spices.

Glutamate in food

When eating ready meals from bag and box, it depends on a healthy level. It is worthwhile, then, to study the list of ingredients at the next purchase.

For here glutamate hides behind the different names monosodium glutamate, flavor enhancer, wort or behind the numbers E 620 to E 625.

Organic manufacturers occasionally use the flavor enhancer Yeast extract. However, behind the innocuous-sounding name Yeast Extract, there is nothing else than less concentrated glutamate.




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