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The Difference between MSG and Sodium

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a manufactured food additive that is used to enhance the flavor of foods.  Table salt or sodium chloride is the leftover solid matter from evaporated ocean water. Debate has raged for years on the safety of MSG while, in the last few decades, sodium's reputation has taken a hit because of its association with high blood pressure and the health problems that can come from that.


MSG was previously made from wheat gluten but with the rise of Celiac disease (which makes people sick when they consume wheat gluten) is now usually made from bacterial fermentation.

Sodium is a natural element that is vital to all animal life. Many people have long presumed that since salt occurs in nature that it must be safer than the manufactured MSG. Recent research has challenged that belief.


MSG was discovered in 1907, but was not marketed in the United States until 1947 when Ac'cent flavour enhancer was introduced.

Salt is so important to people that it was actually part of pay given to Roman soldiers. In fact, the word "salary" comes from the Roman word "salarium," which is what the salt wafers were called that the soldiers were given.


MSG actually has little or no flavor of its own but it works with the basic tastes of salt, sweet, bitter and sour to make those flavors more savory. In addition, the use of MSG enhances flavors so much that less salt can be used in foods and still provide great taste.

Salt is used not only to add flavor but also to help preserve food. However, since about 75 percent of salt Americans consume comes from salt added to processed food, it is apparent that more salt is added than is needed just for preservation.

Side Effects

MSG, at one time, had a reputation for causing health problems like migraines that were sometimes called the Chinese restaurant effect. Chinese restaurants had a reputation for heavily using MSG in their cooking. So much so, in fact, that at one point some Chinese restaurants advertised their food as "MSG free"as a marketing tool.

The biggest side effect of salt is that too much can raise a person's blood pressure, which can result in heart problems including heart attacks.

In Your Diet

Research testing of MSG has now found that, while it can cause nausea and headaches, there is no evidence that it can cause long-term health problems. Given your current health situation, figure out how sensitive your body is to sodium or msg and make dietary decisions based on those needs.

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