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David Chang on MSG

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Interesting talk from David Chang at the MAD symposium about umami and MSG. I been think a lot about this lately because it's so ubiquitous in East and Southeast Asian food. Not since the chili pepper, has an ingredient spread so rapidly through so many food cultures in so short a time period. Here is the link to the 23 minute video. I have many more thoughts on this subject, but no time to post at this moment, perhaps later.

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Interesting talk from David Chang at the MAD symposium about umami and MSG. I been think a lot about this lately because it's so ubiquitous in East and Southeast Asian food. Not since the chili pepper, has an ingredient spread so rapidly through so many food cultures in so short a time period. Here is the link to the 23 minute video. I have many more thoughts on this subject, but no time to post at this moment, perhaps later.

I watched the first 10 minutes, and couldn't watch any more it was so boring.

Non-experts speaking on a subject which requires expertise.

Did this appearance come "from the heart?" Or, was it paid for by someone? It looked pretty darned slapdash and obligatory to me, although I didn't see anything in the first ten minutes that I vehemently disagree with other than emphasis.

My problem with MSG has nothing to do with health reasons; it has everything to do with taking shortcuts and creating "depth of flavor" in a chemistry lab. To the best of my knowledge, umami is a bullshit marketing concept. MSG was "invented" in the early 1900s - what did people do without this "fifth flavor component" for 50,000 years before that?

"Oh, but it's naturally occurring, Don - a derivative of seaweed."

"And HFCS is a naturally occurring derivative of corn. Likewise ethanol."

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I watched the first 10 minutes, and couldn't watch any more it was so boring.

Non-experts speaking on a subject which requires expertise.

Did this appearance come "from the heart?" Or, was it paid for by someone? It looked pretty darned slapdash and obligatory to me, although I didn't see anything in the first ten minutes that I vehemently disagree with other than emphasis.

My problem with MSG has nothing to do with health reasons; it has everything to do with taking shortcuts and creating "depth of flavor" in a chemistry lab. To the best of my knowledge, umami is a bullshit marketing concept. MSG was "invented" in the early 1900s - what did people do without this "fifth flavor component" for 50,000 years before that?

"Oh, but it's naturally occurring, Don - a derivative of seaweed."

"And HFCS is a naturally occurring derivative of corn. Likewise ethanol."

Do you have the same issue with sugar?

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Do you have the same issue with sugar?

Yes and no - I use raw turbinado in my coffee and sometimes (black) tea, and don't remember the last time I've added white sugar to anything. Then again, I'm not a baker.

That said, I'll add processed sugar before aspartame or saccharine.

I can also honestly say that I've never knowingly tasted Splenda in my life.

If something is sweetened with honey, I tend to gravitate towards that (I *love* honey).

Let's also remain focused on the fact that "sweet" really IS one of the four basic taste receptors; it wasn't invented by a marketing agency.

There's an age-old term for umami - it's called "aftertaste" (or, in wine terms, "finish"), and it has nothing to do with MSG aka "Accent Meat Tenderizer."

Certain restaurants I avoid (that other people just go apeshit for) because I suspect them of using MSG to make their beef taste beefier than beef - I've also greatly reduced my visits to Chick-Fil-A, not because of political issues, but because I now suspect that they go heavy on the MSG.

I just don't need all the chemical additives in my life, and if I can avoid them (or, more realistically, minimize them), I will.

Whenever I see fruit flies in restaurants, I view that as a positive sign because they're probably limiting the use of insecticides.

Chang began talking about "Doritos" as some sort of pro-MSG example, and I honestly couldn't believe what I was hearing.

I'm not militant about this, but I actively choose to avoid Wal-Mart and pay more at locally owned stores, even for the exact same product.

People might read this and think that I'm mixing different issues, but I'm really not.

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Yes and no - I use raw turbinado in my coffee and sometimes (black) tea, and don't remember the last time I've added white sugar to anything. Then again, I'm not a baker.

That said, I'll add processed sugar before aspartame or saccharine.

I can also honestly say that I've never knowingly tasted Splenda in my life.

If something is sweetened with honey, I tend to gravitate towards that (I *love* honey).

Let's also remain focused on the fact that "sweet" really IS one of the four basic taste receptors; it wasn't invented by a marketing agency.

There's an age-old term for umami - it's called "aftertaste" (or, in wine terms, "finish"), and it has nothing to do with MSG aka "Accent Meat Tenderizer."

Certain restaurants I avoid (that other people just go apeshit for) because I suspect them of using MSG to make their beef taste beefier than beef - I've also greatly reduced my visits to Chick-Fil-A, not because of political issues, but because I now suspect that they go heavy on the MSG.

I just don't need all the chemical additives in my life, and if I can avoid them (or, more realistically, minimize them), I will.

Whenever I see fruit flies in restaurants, I view that as a positive sign because they're probably limiting the use of insecticides.

Chang began talking about "Doritos" as some sort of pro-MSG example, and I honestly couldn't believe what I was hearing.

I'm not militant about this, but I actively choose to avoid Wal-Mart and pay more at locally owned stores, even for the exact same product.

People might read this and think that I'm mixing different issues, but I'm really not.

Calling it a chemical additive is misleading though. Table Salt, MSG, Sugar, Citric Acid are all essentially the same thing, processed raw ingredients distilled into a single thing and used to flavor food. It's odd to me that you pick on MSG calling it marketing gimmick, even though there's actual science that says that it's not.

I don't see the difference of adding other seasonings and MSG. You're fine with salt being added, sugar being added, but somehow MSG is unnatural and shows a lack of skill in the kitchen?

http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/19686108

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Calling it a chemical additive is misleading though. Table Salt, MSG, Sugar, Citric Acid are all essentially the same thing, processed raw ingredients distilled into a single thing and used to flavor food. It's odd to me that you pick on MSG calling it marketing gimmick, even though there's actual science that says that it's not.

I don't see the difference of adding other seasonings and MSG. You're fine with salt being added, sugar being added, but somehow MSG is unnatural and shows a lack of skill in the kitchen?

http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/19686108

We've had this discussion before in this thread.

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We've had this discussion before in this thread.

Yes and your reasoning then didn't make sense either. You're opinion isn't based on facts or science. You're trying to vilify and draw comparisons to HFCS when it doesn't make any sense to. Your point is that adding MSG is a hack move, but somehow adding salt, citric acid, or sugar isn't. That doesn't make sense.

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Yes and your reasoning then didn't make sense either. You're opinion isn't based on facts or science. You're trying to vilify and draw comparisons to HFCS when it doesn't make any sense to. Your point is that adding MSG is a hack move, but somehow adding salt, citric acid, or sugar isn't. That doesn't make sense.

Would you please show me where I said where adding salt, citric acid, or sugar isn't?

Go ahead and link to the post where I said that, please.

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Would you please show me where I said where adding salt, citric acid, or sugar isn't?

Go ahead and link to the post where I said that, please.

I can't because you've ignored the posts that brought it up in the past.

Ok, so your point is that adding any season/additive is a hack move?

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And I said that ... where, exactly?

"My problem with MSG has nothing to do with health reasons; it has everything to do with taking shortcuts and creating "depth of flavor" in a chemistry lab. To the best of my knowledge, umami is a bullshit marketing concept. MSG was "invented" in the early 1900s - what did people do without this "fifth flavor component" for 50,000 years before that?"

Taking shortcuts==hack move.

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"My problem with MSG has nothing to do with health reasons; it has everything to do with taking shortcuts and creating "depth of flavor" in a chemistry lab. To the best of my knowledge, umami is a bullshit marketing concept. MSG was "invented" in the early 1900s - what did people do without this "fifth flavor component" for 50,000 years before that?"

Taking shortcuts==hack move.

I stand behind my statement. In fact, I've just re-read it five times and don't see anything about it I'd change or retract.

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I stand behind my statement. In fact, I've just re-read it five times and don't see anything about it I'd change or retract.

Ignoring the part that it's been scientifically proven to not be a marketing concept, why is it different from salt/citric acid/sugar?

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Ignoring the part that it's been scientifically proven to not be a marketing concept, why is it different from salt/citric acid/sugar?

It has not been scientifically proven to be much of anything. I can show you studies that say caffeine is good for you, and studies that say caffeine is bad for you.

The body naturally craves salt.

The body naturally craves sugar.

The body does not naturally crave umami.

During the video, David Chang mentioned something about MSG being the most vilified ingredient in western culture. I propose that both salt and sugar are several orders of magnitude (*) more vilified than MSG. Also, given the population of China, etc., MSG has got to be one of the most pervasive additives in the world. Before I first started mentioning the preponderance of MSG a few years ago, there wasn't much discussion of it at all on internet food boards - I'm more than happy to be party responsible for the "vilification" of flavor-enhancing additives such as this, and if the discussion turns against the gross overuse of heavily processed salt and sugar, then so much the better - I assure you I've railed against "industrial food," "chain restaurants," and their arsenals of refined carbohydrates and chemically manufactured "flavors" more than I've railed against MSG as a stand-alone villain.

(*) Each order of magnitude is "times 10." So yes, I'm saying that salt and sugar are 1,000, 10,000, perhaps 100,000 times more vilified than MSG. Ever heard of high blood pressure and type two diabetes? Guess what they're strongly linked to. Let's not even mention alcohol.

I suspect this is going to get back to Chang, so let it be said that I have no strong disagreements with what I heard - I'd be curious to know who paid for the presentation, however.

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It has not been scientifically proven to be much of anything. I can show you studies that say caffeine is good for you, and studies that say caffeine is bad for you.

The body naturally craves salt.

The body naturally craves sugar.

The body does not naturally crave umami.

During the video, David Chang mentioned something about MSG being the most vilified ingredient in western culture. I propose that both salt and sugar are several orders of magnitude (*) more vilified than MSG. Also, given the population of China, etc., MSG has got to be one of the most pervasive additives in the word. Before I first started mentioning the preponderance of MSG a few years ago, there wasn't much discussion of it at all on internet food boards - I'm more than happy to be party responsible for the "vilification" of flavor-enhancing additives such as this, and if the discussion turns against the gross overuse of heavily processed salt and sugar, then so much the better - I assure you I've railed against "industrial food," "chain restaurants," and their arsenals of refined carbohydrates and chemically manufactured "flavors" more than I've railed against MSG as a stand-alone villain.

(*) Each order of magnitude is "times 10." So yes, I'm saying that salt and sugar are 1,000, 10,000, perhaps 100,000 times more vilified than MSG. Ever heard of high blood pressure and type two diabetes? Guess what they're strongly linked to.

There are taste receptors for umami. That's a proven scientific fact. If not, then please find me the studies that prove otherwise.

While I appreciate the reply, you didn't actually address my question. So is your issue the use or the overuse of MSG? You don't seem to be talking at all about how it can be used responsibly something you clearly think can be done with other food additives like salt, sugar and citric acid. You don't have people talking about how they're allergic to salt or sugar. Faking headaches because they think someone slipped a bunch of table salt in their fried rice. You boycott Chick-fil-A because of MSG, not the 1400 MG of sodium in a single sandwich. The MSG in the sandwich has no negative effects on the body, but 1400MG which is about half the daily recommended amount. Your vilification seems to be misguided and misplaced.

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There are taste receptors for umami. That's a proven scientific fact. If not, then please find me the studies that prove otherwise.

While I appreciate the reply, you didn't actually address my question. So is your issue the use or the overuse of MSG? You don't seem to be talking at all about how it can be used responsibly something you clearly think can be done with other food additives like salt, sugar and citric acid. You don't have people talking about how they're allergic to salt or sugar. Faking headaches because they think someone slipped a bunch of table salt in their fried rice. You boycott Chick-fil-A because of MSG, not the 1400 MG of sodium in a single sandwich. The MSG in the sandwich has no negative effects on the body, but 1400MG which is about half the daily recommended amount. Your vilification seems to be misguided and misplaced.

I do appreciate the discussion, but I'm absolutely not going to spend my Friday afternoon digging up studies (btw, you're asking me to prove the negative). That said, I'd like to know your definition of umami - an exact, precise definition. Mine is "aftertaste" or "finish" because I don't buy that there's anything more to it than that, and I do not believe that anything fundamental to basic human cravings did not exist before the early 1900s, orgasmatron notwithstanding.

I don't boycott Chick-fil-A because of MSG (or anything else, for that matter), although my statement above could certainly lead someone to think I do. It was my suspicion of MSG that drew my attention to their ingredients list (where I still can't find anything about it, one way or the other), and I didn't like what I saw - I simply don't want all of these ingredients, whether they're MSG, 1400 mg of sodium, crappy processed bun, or, for that matter, inhumanely raised chickens. If I'm hungry on a rural interstate, I'll grab a sandwich and a waffle fries before I get a fast-food burger, but that's about as far as I'll go. To answer your first question specifically: overuse (*).

You're not finding my answers satisfying because quite frankly, I'm really not saying anything of great strength, even though you keep trying to wring something out of me.

(*) I avoid margarine at all costs, and I cannot think of one single exception, but I'll happily dip my sashimi in soy sauce. And, for whatever it's worth, I've probably had more MSG this week than you have.

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I do appreciate the discussion, but I'm absolutely not going to spend my Friday afternoon digging up studies (btw, you're asking me to prove the negative). That said, I'd like to know your definition of umami - an exact, precise definition. Mine is "aftertaste" or "finish" because I don't buy that there's anything more to it than that, and I do not believe that anything fundamental to basic human cravings did not exist before the early 1900s, orgasmatron notwithstanding.

I don't boycott Chick-fil-A because of MSG (or anything else, for that matter), although my statement above could certainly lead someone to think I do. It was my suspicion of MSG that drew my attention to their ingredients list (where I still can't find anything about it, one way or the other), and I didn't like what I saw - I simply don't want all of these ingredients, whether they're MSG, 1400 mg of sodium, crappy processed bun, or, for that matter, inhumanely raised chickens. If I'm hungry on a rural interstate, I'll grab a sandwich and a waffle fries before I get a fast-food burger, but that's about as far as I'll go. To answer your first question specifically: overuse (*).

You're not finding my answers satisfying because quite frankly, I'm really not saying anything of great strength, even though you keep trying to wring something out of me.

(*) I avoid margarine at all costs, and I cannot think of one single exception, but I'll happily dip my sashimi in soy sauce. And, for whatever it's worth, I've probably had more MSG this week than you have.

You made statements about studies could be shown on both side about caffeine. That lead me to believe that you were saying that there was something supporting your opinion that there are no taste receptors for umami. I already posted one for my opinion, I just figured that since you keep banging this drum that you would have based your opinion on something.

How do you precisely describe sweet, bitter, sour, or salty? I can point to examples, but can't give you a definition of those, umami is no different. It's use is just as valid as salt, sugar, or citric acid.

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You made statements about studies could be shown on both side about caffeine. That lead me to believe that you were saying that there was something supporting your opinion that there are no taste receptors for umami. I already posted one for my opinion, I just figured that since you keep banging this drum that you would have based your opinion on something.

How do you precisely describe sweet, bitter, sour, or salty? I can point to examples, but can't give you a definition of those, umami is no different. It's use is just as valid as salt, sugar, or citric acid.

Please don't ask me to prove or disprove something unless you can properly define what it is you need me to prove or disprove.

Also, for, I think, the third time ... where, exactly, did I say "there are no taste receptors for umami?"

This has grown tiresome, truly.

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Please don't ask me to prove or disprove something unless you can properly define what it is you need me to prove or disprove.

Also, for, I think, the third time ... where, exactly, did I say "there are no taste receptors for umami?"

This has grown tiresome, truly.

I'm asking you to support your opinion. You make statements like "Let's also remain focused on the fact that "sweet" really IS one of the four basic taste receptors;" and " It has not been scientifically proven to be much of anything." but then when asked to prove that there are 4 and not 5 taste receptors you attempt to distract and refuse to admit that you're wrong. So please, prove how there are only four basic taste receptors when commonly accepted science says there are 5?

http://www.livescien...h-debunked.html

Now, with all that being said, what exactly is your problem with adding MSG to food and how is it different for any other additive like salt/citric acid/sugar? (which is like the 5th time since you like keep count but you still haven't answered)

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My problem with MSG has nothing to do with health reasons; it has everything to do with taking shortcuts and creating "depth of flavor" in a chemistry lab. To the best of my knowledge, umami is a bullshit marketing concept. MSG was "invented" in the early 1900s - what did people do without this "fifth flavor component" for 50,000 years before that?

The body naturally craves salt.

The body naturally craves sugar.

The body does not naturally crave umami.

Sorry, wrong.

Here's my take.

The human mouth is currently known to have five taste receptors. Why does it have them? What are they there for -- what is their role in the really big picture, i.e. the evolution of the species? Because when you think about it, evolution is why we have everything we have.

Those receptors have a clear evolutionary purpose, and without them our ancestors, as they crawled out of the ooze, would not have survived, or at least not developed into the higher-level organisms such as we. Three of them lead us (and in varying ways other high-level species) to seek out and ingest matter that provides our mammalian bodies with what they must have to grow and maintain themselves, specifically salt which is required for all sorts of cellular functions, sweet substances for energy, also required for cellular functions, and savoriness (umami from glutamates which are tightly associated with protein, also necessary for our cellular functions and growth). Basically if, and only if, one ingests enough organic stuff that has these three qualities, one will pretty much be getting a diet that makes it possible for the body to live, grow and, eventually, reproduce, i.e. evolve. It was not always easy to get such a diet.

Bitter and sour are just as necessary but work in the opposite way. They typically are associated with things that will harm a higher-level living creature, i.e. poisons. Not a one-to-one relationship of course (as I chow down on pickled herring), but workable from the evolutionary standpoint -- the organism that avoids ingesting bitter and sour organic matter will have a better shot at survival and evolving into complex creatures like mammals and birds and us.

So yes, like salt and sweets, the body does indeed crave umami, and for a good reason. It's just taken us a little longer to connect the dots. And, as an aside, umami is certainly more than an "aftertaste" or "finish"-- it's a basic aspect of flavor bound up with our food preferences, just like saltiness and sweetness.

And where does johnny-come-lately MSG fit in to all this?

All the above served us and our ancestors well for several million years. However, in the last 200 or so, a fraction of a second on the evolutionary clock, things have gotten turned upside down. Now, with technology, we don't need these taste preferences to help us successfully seek out an evolutionarily-adequate diet; adequate food can be had everywhere in great quantities with little effort. But we still crave these flavors that are hard-wired into us, and with the brakes off it has come to be all about excess.

Side comment: This very forum is a symptom of the excess, and I suppose we are all guilty participants to one degree or another. But I digress.

As I see it, MSG is just another form of glutamate, and really no different from other forms that occur "naturally." In the big picture it's not needed, and the I'm sure human race would be just fine if it had never been synthesized. But the scientific evidence so far is pretty clear that it is not inherently harmful either. And, like salt and sugar, It can be used to make things taste better. Umami, one minor form of which is found in MSG, is certainly not just a bullshit marketing concept -- it really does explain why certain things taste better. Adding MSG is one way to increase umami and enhance flavor. Yes, cheaply and easily. We cooks do the same and similar with a wide variety of "chemicals" of varying degrees of "naturalness." Whether you agree that MSG is a good thing, or that it would better add umami in some other way, or that it's not necessary at all, is up to you. Me, I'm a fish sauce guy (and I'm happy to report that I finally found Red Boat yesterday and am anxious to try it).

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I do appreciate the discussion, but I'm absolutely not going to spend my Friday afternoon digging up studies (btw, you're asking me to prove the negative). That said, I'd like to know your definition of umami - an exact, precise definition. Mine is "aftertaste" or "finish" because I don't buy that there's anything more to it than that, and I do not believe that anything fundamental to basic human cravings did not exist before the early 1900s, orgasmatron notwithstanding.

Okay, I've done some digging, and answered my own request. To the best that I can tell, the scientific definition of umami is: "the taste of C5H9NO4: glutamic acid."

Which, in turn, makes this sentence incorrect:

There's an age-old term for umami - it's called "aftertaste" (or, in wine terms, "finish"), and it has nothing to do with MSG aka "Accent Meat Tenderizer."

Sorry, wrong.

Here's my take.

The human mouth is currently known to have five taste receptors.

John, from the best that I can tell, this "fifth taste receptor" wasn't discovered until the year 2000, and I'm still trying to figure out what, exactly, a "taste receptor" is. I'm not sure why I typed this sentence they way I did:

Let's also remain focused on the fact that "sweet" really IS one of the four basic taste receptors; it wasn't invented by a marketing agency.

What I was trying to say is that we crave sugar, at a cellular level. When Shackleton's crew was rescued, they were asked what it was they wanted to eat after so many months surviving on nothing but seal hooch. To a man, they said, "Pastry." They were literally craving sweetness.

In terms of the "basic tastes," I'm not so sure I buy that there are only four OR five (which is why I want to know more about this study performed in 2000). The tongue map, for example, went unquestioned for generations; why shouldn't people be skeptical about this mysterious 10-year-old "confirmation" of umami, most readily translated as "deliciousness?" Apparently, every taste bud has the ability to taste glutamic acid. But I wonder what else can be tasted. Already, people are postulating the existence of "taste receptors" for the flavors "fat", "metallic," and "piquance" - that would make 6, 7, and 8. And just because there are taste receptors for something does not mean you crave it - has anyone ever craved something that tasted metallic, for example? What explains the unique taste of DRC wines? Umami? Or, something else?

I would very much like to know who funded the study in 2000. Also, what it was, exactly, that they were looking for. Was it funded by a manufacturer of MSG? Were they looking exclusively for the existence of a taste receptor for glutamic acid, or were they searching for any old taste receptor that stood out the most? If they truly confirmed the existence of a "fifth taste" which completely overturned a century or more of scientific wisdom, then that's pretty darned heady stuff - where's the Nobel prize?

If every taste bud can taste glutamic acid, then why can't they taste 5,000 other tastes as well? What if there's a continuum of human tastes, and not such a limited number? Why 5 and not 5,000,000? What is responsible for the taste of garlic, for example? Why do you taste raw onions hours after you eat them?

Maybe the manufacturers of garlic should fund a study searching for a garlic taste receptor, and if they find it, declare it as "the sixth fundamental taste." Umami seems to encompass things such as tomatoes, asparagus, fish, seaweed, Parmesan cheese, green tea, and breast milk - that's a pretty darned wide array of flavors, and I can honestly say that I've never craved asparagus or seaweed in my life.

Doesn't it seem odd that there's this one catch-all "taste" that is responsible for such a diversity of foods? Doesn't it seem sketchy that the man who discovered umami also took out the original patent on MSG?

All of this seems just a little too convenient, and dare I say "simplified," to accept without some skepticism.

PS - I had Yamasa soy sauce with my sushi tonight at Kotobuki. No MSG, and I wouldn't have even known the difference. Then again, with an annual production of 3,000,000,000 (three billion) pounds per year of MSG - which is nearly half a pound for every living person on the planet - they probably couldn't care less. Think there's some money at stake here?

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I won't even weigh in on MSG (since I probably only have it included in infrequent meals out), but when I tried to restrict my diet recently, the most difficult ingredient to give up was soy- much more difficult than sugar or artificial sweeteners for me. I love sour, & still could use citrus & vinegar, but cutting out soy (& also excess sodium) was horrible for me, I still could add sea salt to lots of cooked veggies, but found it hard to give up soy- cheated by using small amounts of tamari, gluten-free soy, but was aware that that was still not allowed, & yes, I know that everything is allowable in moderation, but this was just a test, to see if I could do it...I'm not even going to touch on alcohol...on the plus side, I now drink my coffee, w/ only a spoonful of coconut cream, & no added sweetener...

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from the best that I can tell, this "fifth taste receptor" wasn't discovered until the year 2000

In 1992 I was in culinary school and one of the classes was "oriental kitchen"

Shirley Cheng, the very knowledgeable Chinese instructor informed us that in China, unlike the West, there are five flavors.

So this was a full 8 yrs. before 2000.

Of course she called the five tastes:

Sweet

Sour

Salty

Bitter

Fresh

I only wonder if that means there are now 6 or still 5.

:blink:

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I would very much like to know who funded the study in 2000. Also, what it was, exactly, that they were looking for. Was it funded by a manufacturer of MSG? Were they looking exclusively for the existence of a taste receptor for glutamic acid, or were they searching for any old taste receptor that stood out the most? If they truly confirmed the existence of a "fifth taste" which completely overturned a century or more of scientific wisdom, then that's pretty darned heady stuff - where's the Nobel prize?

Don

The key work on the subject was carried out under the auspices of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the funding source, by Charles Zuker, an HHMI investigator. I doubt any industry money was at the table. HHMI doesn't work that way AFAIK. They have plenty of money to spread around (being among other things "heirs" to the Direct TV fortune you might say). Here are two links that describe the work and address many of the questions you raised:

http://www.hhmi.org/news/zuker3.html

http://www.hhmi.org/news/zuker5.html

Basically, Zuker proved that an umami receptor exists (like other receptors), thus proving that an umami taste exists, and also proved that each flavor has its own receptors. Receptors don't taste multiple compounds, but they do share a common neural pathway to the brain. End of biology lesson.

HHMI is a very interesting organization, that few have even heard of unless they watch NOVA on PBS -- they have one of the largest endowments on the planet, and use it to fund all sorts of biomedical research that is mostly carried out by their full-time investigators who typically are also on the faculty of all the prestigious universities you can think of. HHMI gives each of them about $1 million per year and turns them loose to research stuff. Since you mentioned Nobel Prizes, note that over the years 15 HHMI investigators have indeed won Nobels. Heady stuff indeed!

[Full disclosure -- my sweet bride used to be on the staff of HHMI (in the travel group, sending these guys to conferences all over the globe), and still would be if I hadn't dragged her, kicking and screaming, to this mountain in North Carolina. By far the best job she ever had.]

Here's another HHMI link that goes to the connection between taste receptors and successful evolution, and mentions the "fat" taste (number 6?) as well.

http://www.askascien...20120104-4.html

I could link much more, but the bottom line is that umami is real, not an invention of MSG manufacturers or Madison Avenue.

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In 1992 I was in culinary school and one of the classes was "oriental kitchen"

Shirley Cheng, the very knowledgeable Chinese instructor informed us that in China, unlike the West, there are five flavors.

So this was a full 8 yrs. before 2000.

Of course she called the five tastes:

Sweet

Sour

Salty

Bitter

Fresh

I only wonder if that means there are now 6 or still 5.

:blink:

I believe it's still the same five. The second symbol in fresh is the same as for umami. But for older generations of Chinese, they don't know to translate the word into English. My parents have always described it as the characteristic that makes food tasty.

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