Oh no, say it ain't so! Umami bombs might be bad for me?

Some of you who found this blog way back may remember Trey’s post on our OpenHelix taste strip experiment. Around that same time (probably because I was primed for noticing ‘stuff related to the genetics of taste’) I saw a couple of different articles on umami – the fifth flavor we can taste – including this one from the Wall Street Journal. The concept (as well as the sound) of ‘umami bombs’ has appealed to me ever since.  Just the other day I found a scrumptious sounding recipe for tomato umami bombs. But now I see in a recent Yahoo Health article that MSG consumption has been linked to obesity in rats and humans. The article didn’t specify much about the research other than where it occurred, but I managed to find the original, freely available article in the journal Obesity (citation below). Since they were able to actually get evidence that it works similarly in both rats & humans, I decided to see if anyone had cloned an MSG receptor. I (of course) searched NCBI Entrez system & got lots of hits, including 13 in NCBI Nucleotides, 19 in Entrez Protein & 5 in OMIM. I followed the hits in Nucleotide, saw that there were 2 hits in RefSeq, and followed those since RefSeq is manually curated & high quality. And from those two hits I found this article.

I’m not going to spend more time today on this wandering, but dang, it is fun knowing about so may public information sources where I can dig for more details on  ‘popular health media’ reports. Do you have any similar stories of starting at some general news article and ending up waist-deep in the rich biological information available to us online? I’m curious what resources others go to for such wanderings.

ResearchBlogging.orgHe, K., Zhao, L., Daviglus, M., Dyer, A., Van Horn, L., Garside, D., Zhu, L., Guo, D., Wu, Y., Zhou, B., & Stamler, J. (2008). Association of Monosodium Glutamate Intake With Overweight in Chinese Adults: The INTERMAP Study Obesity, 16 (8), 1875-1880 DOI: 10.1038/oby.2008.274