Is MSG Bad for You? The Controversial Ingredient That May Not Be As Bad As You Think

Sep 15, 2023 By Susan Kelly

New research shows that MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a naturally occurring amino acid found in foods like tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and mushrooms. While a small subset of people may experience mild and temporary side effects, for most of us, MSG in food in normal amounts is perfectly safe.

What Is MSG and Why Did It Get a Bad Reputation?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has gotten a bad reputation over the years. But what exactly is this controversial ingredient, and does it really deserve the criticism?

What Is MSG?

MSG is a flavor enhancer made of sodium and glutamate, an amino acid found naturally in foods like tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms. Glutamate activates our taste buds to perceive savoryness and improve the overall flavor of foods. MSG simply contains this same compound, glutamate, in a crystallized form.

Why the Bad Rap?

In the 1960s, MSG was accused of causing "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome," claiming it caused headaches, sweating, and chest pain. This is how the “Is MSG bad for you” controversy began circulating. However, numerous studies found no definitive evidence to substantiate these claims. The FDA, World Health Organization, and other food safety authorities worldwide have classified MSG as safe for the general population.

While some people may experience mild and transient side effects, MSG sensitivity or "allergy" is rare. The stigma seems to stem more from a general distrust of artificial or unfamiliar additives. However, MSG is made of natural ingredients and has been used safely for over a century.

The myths and misconceptions around MSG persist, but when consumed in average amounts as a food additive, there is little evidence to suggest MSG bad for health or deserves the controversy. The key is moderation, as with many ingredients. But you can feel confident enjoying your favorite Chinese takeout without worry.

Common Myths and Misconceptions Regarding MSG in Food

You've probably heard MSG causes headaches, nausea, and obesity. The truth is decades of scientific research have found no good evidence to support those claims. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is simply the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid found naturally in foods like tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms.

Causes Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

One of the biggest myths is that MSG causes "Chinese restaurant syndrome," with symptoms like headaches, sweating, and chest pain after eating Chinese food. However, multiple double-blind, placebo-controlled studies found no evidence to link MSG consumption to these effects. The syndrome is not officially recognized as an illness.

Links to Obesity

Some people claim MSG causes obesity or metabolic issues. Again, no rigorous scientific study has proven this. In fact, glutamate may even have some benefits when consumed in normal amounts, like reducing appetite or improving gut health. Of course, MSG should still be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Causes Headache and Nausea

While some people may experience mild symptoms like headache or nausea after consuming MSG, serious or life-threatening reactions are extremely rare. For most of us, MSG is perfectly safe when consumed in normal amounts as a food additive or naturally occurring in foods.

The myths about MSG, like “is MSG bad for you?" have been debunked, and the controversial ingredient may not be as bad as you think.

So, Is MSG bad for you?

No, it’s not! For most people, MSG simply enhances the savory taste of foods. It works by activating our taste receptors for glutamate, an amino acid that is found naturally in foods like tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and mushrooms. MSG is made of sodium and glutamate, with the sodium allowing the glutamate to dissolve in liquid.

Some concerns have been raised about possible long-term effects or connections to conditions like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. However, numerous scientific reviews have found no strong evidence to substantiate these fears. The consensus is that normal use of MSG in moderation is unlikely to pose health risks for the general population.

Of course, everyone is different. If you feel unwell after eating MSG, by all means, avoid or limit your consumption. But for those without sensitivity, MSG in food can be enjoyed as an ingredient that simply improves the flavor of your favorite savory treats. Moderation and an overall balanced diet are key.

Perks of Using MSG in Your Food

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, surely has some benefits when used in moderation.

Makes the Food Delectable

MSG is a flavor enhancer that provides an umami taste, which is considered the fifth taste, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. It helps boost the savory flavor of foods and allows you to cut back on salt. Using MSG in place of some salt can help reduce your sodium intake while still enhancing flavor.

Enhances Oral Health

MSG may also have some surprising benefits for your health. It can improve oral health by reducing plaque and cavities. The savory taste of MSG stimulates saliva flow, which helps wash away food particles. MSG also boosts your appetite by stimulating hunger hormones and gastric juices. This can be useful for elderly or sick people with poor appetite.

Promotes Nutrients Absorption

Finally, MSG helps with nutrient absorption. The umami flavor causes your body to release more digestive enzymes and stomach acid, which helps break down food so your body can absorb all the nutrients.

Final Verdict!

So don't believe all the scaremongering around MSG or whether is MSG bad for health. The myths have been debunked by science, and MSG is recognized as safe by food authorities worldwide.

Next time you're enjoying your favorite Chinese takeout or chips and wondering if that MSG-induced headache is coming, relax. It's unlikely to happen. MSG adds flavor to foods and allows you to cut down on salt - contrary to popular belief, it won't harm you.

Related articles
Creating Light and Fluffy Baked Goods: The Role of Bubbles in Batter and Dough
Do you want to learn how bubbles in batter affect the texture and quality of baked goods? Find out everything in this article and create fluffy cakes and breads.
Sep 11, 2023
Unleash the Best Seafood Flavors in Your Dishes
With this informative guide, you may learn how to cook the greatest fish. We will teach you how to rapidly prepare prawns, crab and other seafood. Cook fish well and wow your family and friends. Now is the moment to discover ocean flavours!
Sep 02, 2023
Let's Find The Late-Night Cafés in Sydney That are Perfect for a Midnight Snack
City Extra, Zaffi, Indian Home Diner, Caffe Roma, Hey Chú, Hubert, Nakano Darling, Big Poppa's, Kürtősh, EL LOCO, Bills Sydney are the best late-nigh cafes in Sydney
Sep 05, 2023
The Secret to Making Perfect Homemade Brown Sugar
Want to create homemade brown sugar in the simplest way? Read this article to discover the easiest homemade brown sugar recipe
Sep 26, 2023
The Best Homemade Green Bean Casserole Recipes
The Green Bean Casserole recipe is a popular side dish requiring little time or effort. Golden fried onions and a savory mushroom cream sauce topped with tender green beans.
Sep 03, 2023
Understanding What Are Over Medium Eggs: An Ultimate Guide
Over medium eggs have firm white with runny egg yolk and are a rich source of vitamins, protein, and minerals and are good for the eye, brain, and heart health
Sep 04, 2023
The Ultimate Guide to Bowl Scrapers: Your Kitchen's Unsung Hero
Discover why a bowl scraper is a must-have tool for your kitchen. From silicon bowl scrapers to plastic ones, learn how these versatile gadgets make cooking and baking easier.
Sep 21, 2023
Advice On How To Bake Better Cookies For Your Next Batch
Use room temperature butter for better spreading, and mix ingredients thoroughly. Use high-quality ingredients such as vanilla extract, baking soda, and flour. Chill the dough for 30 minutes for thicker, chewier cookies. Experiment with different sugar ratios for desired crispness or softness. Don't over-bake. Take cookies out of the oven when they're just starting to brown. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.
Feb 14, 2023
The Vegan Banana Cream Pie- Satisfy Sweet Cravings
Vegan Banana Cream Pie: Luscious layers of creamy banana pudding, fresh bananas, and whipped coconut cream, all in a gluten-free cookie crust
Sep 05, 2023