Textured vegetable protein may not be harmful for everyone, but it contains a hidden ingredient that causes reactions in some people. Textured vegetable protein, has MSG, or monosodium glutamate, a common flavor enhancer. If you are MSG-intolerant, you may experience unpleasant reactions to eating foods with textured vegetable protein. People with soy allergens may also experience discomfort and problems from eating textured vegetable protein.
Textured Vegetable Protein
Textured vegetable protein, TVP, is also known as isolated soy protein. It is a protein derived from soybeans, but the processing of soybeans into TVP includes chemical alterations. The makers of TVP first mix soybeans, with the oil removed, in an alkali solution, wash them in acid and then neutralize them in a different alkali bath. They then spray-dry the resulting soy curds using high temperatures that turn the curds into powder. More high temperature and pressure applied to the powder results in textured vegetable proteins that can be shaped into strips, chunks or granules for use in foods as meat substitutes. The processing adds flavor enhancers, artificial colorings, emulsifiers and thickening agents, including nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen -- a substance known or is suspected to cause cancer.
Harmful Effects of Soy
Soy is generally considered a health food, but some people are allergic to soy and experience symptoms such as tingling in the mouth, hives, itchy skin, swelling, wheezing, stomach pain, diarrhea and flushing. In rare cases, a person allergic to soy can have a fatal reaction, called anaphylaxis.
Harmful Effects of MSG
Textured protein contains MSG. If you eat TVP and you have an intolerance, you may experience effects such as an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, rashes, mouth lesions, headaches, migraines, shortness of breath and heart attack-like symptoms. MSG consumption may also cause partial paralysis, panic attacks and neurological disorders that mimic Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS and ALS, says Dr. Royce Bailey of Park Ridge Cardiology in Hendersonville, N.C., in an online article titled "MSG And Obesity." Eating TVP and other foods with MSG may also cause you to eat more and gain weight because MSG increases your insulin response, tricking your body into thinking you need to eat more so you do not experience low blood sugar.
Although MSG might not be good for you, soy products do offer some benefits. The Food and Drug Administration considers soy and textured vegetable protein generally safe foods and since 1999 has allowed the claim that 25 grams of soy protein daily may decrease the risk of heart disease to be put on food labels. Eating soy reduces the amount of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and does not lower the amount of HDL, or "good" cholesterol. Soy may also have a positive impact on bone density, but this has not been established conclusively.
- "Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills"; Russell L.Baylock M.D; 1997 (pdf)
- DenverPost.com; The Food Fight; Megan Nix; July 2009
- Center for Science and Public Interest: Chemical Cuisine: Learn About Food Additives
- Park Ridge Cardiology; MSG And Obesity; Royce Bailey M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.C
- DrBlodgett.com; Soy Foods and Nutrition; Daniel Blodgett M.D.
- The Pennsylvania State University; Soy Protein and Soy Isoflavones; J. Lynne Brown, Ph.D., R.D.; 2001 (pdf)