Free glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid found in mushrooms, tomatoes and parmesan cheese, which gives foods a savoury taste. If it rings a bell, that might be because you recognise it’s more controversial form – monosodium glutamate (MSG). This long-demonised food additive is the extracted compound combined with salt. It has been blamed for a wide range of health concerns, however studies show that the slated dangers of MSG are mostly unfounded.
Researchers recently looked at the effect MSG has on the appetite and food intake, analysing the behaviour of women who consumed a bowl of chicken broth with MSG added, compared to those without it added. After the meal, researchers used three different tools to determine its impact – a computer to measure inhibitory control and self regulation of eating, special glasses that tracked eye movements during a buffet meal, and a brain scan that measured brain activity while participant made food choices.
The found that the subjects who ate the broth with extra MSG showed a greater indication of self control and a lower intake of saturated fat following the meal.
"Many cultures around the world advocate drinking a broth before a meal. Our study suggests the possibility that people at high risk of obesity could benefit from an umami-rich broth before a meal to facilitate healthy eating and healthy food choice," said senior author Miguel Alonso-Alonso. "However, here we only evaluated immediate effects and in a laboratory context. Future research should address whether these observed changes can accumulate and affect food intake over time and/or whether they can be leveraged to help people lose weight more successfully."