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Is MSG bad for you?

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Many Chinese recipes call for MSG. Is MSG bad for you?

Monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG, is a food additive that has been used for decades to enhance the flavor of various dishes, especially Chinese dishes.

It is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid found naturally in many foods. Monosodium glutamate is known for its savory, umami flavor, which is often described as the fifth basic taste.

You may have heard that monosodium glutamate is bad for you and I’m not here to tell you that you should consume it. I do use it though and it does make food taste better!


MSG in the news…

With anecdotal reports of adverse reactions known as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” or “MSG Symptom Complex,” you might be afraid to give MSG a try. Symptoms attributed to MSG consumption include headaches, sweating, numbness, and a feeling of general discomfort. However, scientific research has not consistently supported these claims.

Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Scientific Assessment: Numerous scientific studies have been conducted to evaluate the safety of monosodium glutamate, and it has been generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  2. No Consistent Evidence: Despite reports of adverse reactions, extensive scientific research has not consistently linked MSG to these symptoms. Many studies failed to find a clear cause-and-effect relationship between MSG and adverse reactions.
  3. Normal Dietary Intake: MSG is naturally occurring in many foods, such as tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms. The amount of MSG used as a food additive is generally much lower than what people would naturally consume through their diet.
  4. Glutamate Sensitivity: Some individuals may be sensitive to high levels of glutamate or may have allergies or intolerances to specific food ingredients. These individuals could experience adverse reactions, but this sensitivity is not widespread.
  5. Individual Variability: It’s important to recognize that individuals may have different reactions to certain foods or food additives. What affects one person may not affect another in the same way.


In summary…

Monosodium glutamate is considered safe for the vast majority of people when consumed in normal, small amounts as a food additive.

However, individuals who believe they are sensitive to monosodium glutamate or have experienced adverse reactions should be cautious and may choose to avoid foods with added MSG. If you have concerns about MSG or specific food sensitivities, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.