ENVIRONMENT

GLUTAMATE PHENOMENON? THE FLAVOR ENHANCER MYTH FROM THE MIDDLE KINGDOM.

Glutamate, good or bad? Many people fear glutamate because it has been linked to various serious medical conditions in the past. However, disease-causing effects have not been clearly proven. Discovered in Germany in 1888 and industrially exploited in Japan since 1908 The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome states that a high level of glutamate consumption leads to malaise To date, no pathological disease value has been proven for monsodium glutamate Too much glutamate consumption can lead to a lack of taste if the food is not seasoned Glutamate is the collective name for L-glutamic acid and its salts, which are used in food production as a flavor enhancer (E 620–625). Manufacturers use monosodium glutamate to compensate for the loss of taste that occurs during the production of ready meals, or to increase the overall flavor impression. Glutamic acid was first isolated from wheat gluten in 1866 by the German chemist Heinrich Ritthausen. In 1908, the Japanese researcher Kikunae Ikeda discovered its importance for taste quality. He investigated the cause of the special good taste of cheese, meat and tomatoes, which is not covered by the four familiar flavors sweet, sour, salty and bitter. He was able to extract kombu glutamate from the seaweed used in the kitchen in Japan and prove that glutamate is responsible for the special umami taste. Glutamate is approved as an additive throughout the EU. Food can be added up to ten grams per kilogram, for example bag soups, meat products, Asian foods or snacks. (See; Geschmacksverstärker Glutamat, 16-01–02 | 16 Ernährung im Fokus A.I.D.) In 1968 a reader’s letter to the New England Journal of Medicine mentioned a number of acute complaints for the first time that he regularly felt after visiting Chinese restaurants; it got the name Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. The letter was signed as “Robert Ho Man Kwok, MD, Senior Research Investigator, National Biomedical Research Foundation, Silver Spring, Md.”. In 2018, the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Howard Steel publicly announced that he was the author of the letter and stated that it was a hoax resulting from a bet with a colleague. His attempts to publish a correction in the NEJM are said to have been blocked by the magazine. According to Steel, the name of the supposed doctor is the corruption of “Dr. Human Crock ”, which in turn is the short form of a swear word“ a human crock of you-know-what ”(“ A pot full of you-know-what ”). Another indication is the fictitious name of the alleged institute: a “National Biomedical Research Foundation, Silver Spring” does not exist. However, Steel’s testimony contrasts with the fact that there is both the said institute and that there was a Robert Ho Man Kwok who worked there. In addition, Kwok’s children and a colleague at the institute confirmed that Kwok died in 2014. So it is likely that Steel’s claim itself was the hoax. When numerous other cases of intolerance reactions after eating in such restaurants became known, a publication followed in 1969 in which other authors first hypothesized that there was a causal connection between the complaints and glutamates artificially added to the food. Already 10 to 20 minutes after ingesting the substances considered to be the trigger, dry mouth, tingling or numbness in the oral cavity, itching in the throat, reddened skin areas (e.g. cheeks) with sensation of heat, palpitations, (temples) headache, stiff muscles, Neck stiffness, body aches and nausea come along. It is interesting that the most commonly used monosodium glutamate does not have a pleasant taste of its own. However, it can enhance the hearty aroma of a meal when it is combined with suitable smells.

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GLUTAMATE PHENOMENON? THE FLAVOR ENHANCER MYTH FROM THE MIDDLE KINGDOM.

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