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Uncovering the Mysteries of MSG and Umami


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MSG, the sodium salt of one of the most abundant amino acids in our diet, has been recognized for more than a hundred years for its role in enhancing and balancing the savory taste of food. Also known as “umami,” savory is one of the five basic human tastes, along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter. View this presentation to learn more!

Published in: Self Improvement, Technology
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Uncovering the Mysteries of MSG and Umami

  1. 1. Uncovering the Mysteries of Umami and MSG Lisa Watson The Glutamate Association
  2. 2. Show of Hands
  3. 3. Nutri&on   Food   Safety  TASTE!   Christopher Koetke, MBA, CEC, CCE Vice President Culinary Arts Kendall College A Little Help from my Friend
  4. 4. On “Believing” §  TRANSCRIPT: VIDEO CLIP OF CHRIS KOETKE Now, interestingly enough, I haven’t always believed in umami. In fact, I, like a lot of people, were sort of on the fence if it really existed, and certainly I didn’t want to use MSG. But one day in one of my classes I was teaching, I remember talking with a student from the Philippines, and in – in the lecture that day I had mentioned about how we don’t use MSG in our kitchen because it’s a little suspect or whatever. And afterwards, the student came up to me and she said, you know chef, I don’t get it, what is it about MSG, because when I’m at home, my mom has it in the kitchen and we grew up eating it on a lot of things. Now all of a sudden I’ve sort of got this question mark in my head. And then she says, chef, have you ever tried it on scrambled eggs? And so right then in the kitchen we made some scrambled eggs, ‘cause I was curious, and she put in the MSG and I couldn’t believe the flavor boost. And it was that day that I started thinking, you know, maybe there’s something to this umami thing. Ø  View video online here:
  5. 5. Today’s Umami Journey Umami—does it really exist? What does it taste like? MSG and American food culture/lore Foundation on glutamate for critical thinking Glutamate and synergistic compounds in food
  6. 6. How is Food Interpreted Through a process of physiological stimuli and environmental factors And each has its reason for existing
  7. 7. Detection Levels for Basic Tastes
  8. 8. What is Umami? §  Start with definitions Ø  Glutamic acid = glutamate = One of 20 amino acids (protein) Ø  Free glutamic acid = one which is not bound to anything else Ø  Umami = taste sensation derived from free glutamic acid Ø  Ribonucleotide = molecule that boosts synergistically umami flavor profile
  9. 9. History of Umami §  Discovered and characterized by Professor K. Ikeda, 1908 §  Specific to “savory taste” of L-glutamate §  Focus by public only fairly recent
  10. 10. Glutamate sources around the world
  11. 11. Where IS Umami Found? §  TRANSCRIPT: VIDEO CLIP OF CHRIS KOETKE So where do we find this umami flavor profile? In the kitchen it’s in a lot of different places. It comes in fermented sauces like soy sauce and fish sauce or maybe as a paste like miso, for instance, or in aged cheeses and in aged hams, maybe in ripe fruits like tomato. You find umami in a lot of places, and what means is that inside that food you have that free glutamic acid combining with the sodium and voila, you have umami. Now you can also get this umami flavor sensation through the use of MSG. And MSG is the purest form of the umami flavor. Originally, it was derived from kambu or that big seaweed that grows especially off the coast of Japan, and, in fact, that’s how umami was discovered by taking the roth or dashi, that’s made from kambu and bonito flakes, and reducing it down until it’s crystal in form, and that’s the discovery of MSG. Ø  View video online here:
  12. 12. And It Is Complicated…But REAL To Brain R Ca2+ Store [Ca2+]i L-glutamate GMP IMP G 2nd Messengers G Protein-Coupled Receptors Na TrpM5 ++ ATP T1R2 + T1R3 2000: Specific L-glutamate taste receptor discovered.
  13. 13. “Venus Flytrap” Mechanism Zhang et al., PNAS 106 (2008)
  14. 14. Background on Glutamate
  15. 15. Glutamic Acid in the Body n  One of 20 amino acids needed for life n  Most prevalent amino acid in the body n  We consume 10-20 g glutamic acid daily n  Our bodies manufacture about 50g per day n  Key neurotransmitter in the brain n  Approximately 96% of dietary glutamate used by gut mucosal cells as energy source
  16. 16. Glutamic Acid in the Body n  18 times more glutamate in human milk vs. cow milk  
  18. 18. Enhancing Umami Taste Correlates with Increasing Glutamate Concentration §  Ripening §  Maturation §  Curing §  Cooking §  Adding glutamate or glutamate-rich stock
  19. 19. Free vs. Total Glutamate (mg/100g) Total Free Cheddar cheese 6090 600 Parmesan cheese 8210 1600 Tomato 310 246 Corn 650 106 Umami receptors detect free glutamate. Includes free glutamate plus that “bound” to protein
  20. 20. Ribonucleotide Synergy: Up to15-fold! Zhang et al., PNAS 106 (2008)
  21. 21. Ribonucleotide Synergy: The age-old wisdom of chefs §  5-Inosinate—meat based (i.e. sardines, mackerel, tuna, pork, beef and chicken) §  5-Guanylate—plant based (i.e. mushrooms) §  The magic of umami synthesis Ø  1 + 1 = 4 or even 15!
  22. 22. Monosodium Glutamate §  Sodium salt of glutamic acid §  Favorable flavor profile compared to most other salts of glutamic acid §  Body recognizes it identically to free glutamic acid in food §  Good shelf stability §  Recognized flavor enhancer §  Common food additive
  23. 23. Making Glutamate Seasoning Sugar Fermentation Separate/ Crystalize Dry
  24. 24. Daily Consumption (mg) of Monosodium Glutamate (Used as Flavor Enhancer) in Selected Countries 0   500   1000   1500   2000   2500   3000   3500   U.S.*   U.K.*   Japan**   Korea**   Taiwan   * Assumes 70 kg individual ** Assumes 60 kg individual
  25. 25. MSG Role in the Kitchen §  Creates more fully rounded flavor profile §  Pure form of umami for increasing umami without additional flavor profiles §  Useful in diets to reduce salt (70% less sodium per teaspoon than table salt--640 mg and 2,300 mg) §  Useful in diets to reduce fat
  26. 26. The Elephant in the Room: §  1958 US FDA—Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) §  1987 Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of UN Food and Agriculture Organization confirms MSG is safe §  1991 European’s Commission’s Scientific Committee for Food decides unnecessary to set Acceptable Daily Intake level (ADI) §  1995 US FDA Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) confirms safety as food ingredient Is it safe?
  27. 27. But What About . . .
  28. 28. How I usually respond to questions . . . §  Always respect what others feel and experience §  Share basic information about glutamate and the diet §  Share basic information about safety studies §  Stick with the facts – not my place to convince!
  29. 29. Final Thoughts from Chef Chris §  TRANSCRIPT: VIDEO CLIP OF CHRIS KOETKE So, you’ve learned about what this umami sensation is, you’ve learned about where it comes from and how it’s made by different molecules like ribonucleotides acting synergistically with that glutamate molecule or the sodium and free glutamic acid, you know that. And you also know that it’s a perfectly safe molecule to use in cooking. Now, the next step is for you. Go in the kitchen and try it, put some MSG on different products, put it into eggs, put it into soup and watch what happens to the flavor perception, watch what happens to the entire level of the flavor in the food. Give it a try, experiment, and I think you’ll be surprised, happily surprised, with what you see. Ø  View video online here:
  30. 30. Thank you!