Admin {{ oUser.name }} Logout Looking to lose weight? Try our FREE Calorie Counter » | Log In
Fitness Nutrition Forums

Don't Believe What You Hear: MSG Isn't The Silent Killer That You Think It Is

While research has not found a definitive link between MSG and various symptoms, it is possible that a select few are more sensitive to the chemical. However, the scientific consensus remains that it is perfectly safe for the majority of people to consume.

Fitday Editor

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, has been used by many professional cooks for years as a flavor enhancer for many different types of food. Shying away from the standard sour, sweet, bitter and salty flavors, MSG imparts a unique taste called “umami.” Coined the fifth basic taste, “umami” encompasses the savory flavors associated with foods such as meat, vegetables and dairy products.

MSG credits its unique flavor to glutamic acid, or glutamate, a naturally abundant amino acid. It is found widely in foods and is also produced as our bodies naturally process food. The key difference between natural glutamate and MSG is the addition of a sodium atom, turning the amino acid into a salt form, making it easy to add to food.

Once in the food, it reacts with the umami receptors on our tongue and gives us that savory flavor in whatever we are eating. Within the food industry, MSG is commonly added as a flavor enhancer to things such as soups, salad dressings, canned vegetables, bouillon cubes, chips, processed meats, and Chinese and fast foods.

Despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as an ingredient that is “generally recognized as safe,” the use of it remains controversial.

MSG Symptom Complex

The most common argument against MSG is the reports of adverse reactions, known as the MSG symptom complex. The chief complaints include headaches, sweating, flushing, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain, heart palpitations, nausea and overall weakness.

Coined “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” the original anecdotal report of these symptoms have yet to be backed up by significant science. The American Chemical Society (ACS) instead states that the scientific consensus points to the fact that while MSG may temporarily affect a small number of individuals when consumed in large quantities on an empty stomach, it is perfectly safe for the majority of people to consume.

Obesity

Several studies have also pointed to MSG as a culprit in weight gain and obesity, yet have yielded conflicting results. The main theories are that people may eat larger helpings of food containing MSG due to its pleasant flavor, or that MSG might interfere with certain signaling systems in the body that regulate appetite.

The main research studies cited for these arguments have involved animal models, making their translation to humans controversial. In addition, the pathways and mechanisms are currently just theories waiting for more definitive evidence to link the consumption of MSG to obesity.

So, while research has not found a definitive link between MSG and various symptoms, it is possible that a select few are more sensitive to the chemical, and would benefit from avoiding it. However, at normal dietary levels, research has indicated that this timeless villain may not be as dangerous of an additive as originally described.

{{ oArticle.title }}

{{ oArticle.subtitle }}