Are you aware of what monosodium glutamate is? Do you know what it is used for? More importantly, do you know the dangers that it can bring to your health? If you are not aware of such issues, we are here to answer every question you might have about monosodium glutamate. Today, we are going to be exploring how the use and consumption of monosodium glutamate can be dangerous to our health. Let’s begin!

monosodium glutamate powder

What Is Monosodium Glutamate?

You can find monosodium glutamate (MSG or sodium glutamate) occurring naturally in different types of cheese, tomatoes, and many other types of produce. However, this sodium salt is also artificially used in the food industry. MSG provides flavor to different products, such as meat, vegetables, seafood, soups, and many others. It provides the food with a salty and savory taste. It also enhances the flavor, which is why so many manufacturers use it, especially when it comes to products that don’t normally taste that good. Although it does not enhance the typical bitter, sour, sweet, and salty taste, it does enhance more complex flavors in the products it is added to.

What It MSG Made of?

Originally, people would extract monosodium glutamate from seaweed. It was also predominately used in China and Japan. However, nowadays, almost everybody uses it, and people make it from fermenting rice, potatoes, and corn.

Is Monosodium Glutamate Dangerous or Not?

There has been some amount of controversy surrounding this topic. A lot of people claim monosodium glutamate is actually safe to consume, while others complain that it is a threat to the human health. Officially, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies it as safe to consume. However, when a product contains monosodium glutamate, the manufacturer has to put that on the label. But even if the substance is not considered dangerous by the FDA, there are a lot of people who complain about experiencing symptoms due to the use of MSG.

The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

What is the Chinese restaurant syndrome? It is a condition (first coined in 1968) named by people who discovered that whenever they would eat Chinese food containing monosodium glutamate, they would have certain symptoms. The people describing the symptoms said they felt lightheaded, dizzy, or they got headaches. Other complaints included a feeling of pressure in the muscles of the face, tightness of the jaw, back and chest pain, and even a burning sensation in different parts of the body. However, many people are suspicious in what concerns this syndrome. They believe that some sort of allergic reaction or sensibility can also explain these.

The MSG Symptom Complex

Chinese restaurant syndrome aside, many people have been complaining of a link between the consumption of monosodium glutamate and a range of symptoms they have been experiencing. Such symptoms include flushing, sweating, headaches, numbness, burning feeling, facial pressure, heart palpitations, hives, upset stomach, weakness, chest pain, and nausea.

Is There Any Type of Evidence?

There is still no clear evidence linking the consumption of monosodium glutamate and the symptoms we have discussed above. However, scientists did conduct some tests, where they could indeed observe short-term reactions to MSG. Even if the symptoms were not severe and they didn’t require any medical attention, it is undeniable that scientists discovered numbness, flushing, fatigue, tingling, muscle tightness, and so on, in people consuming MSG.

Even if you are not one of those people who experience short-term symptoms, that doesn’t mean you should think MSG is completely harmless to your health. Specialists believe that monosodium glutamate causes our nervous system to create an inflammatory response. This means that over time, our nerves will become more and more sensitive to such a substance.

MSG can also be harmful for women who are pregnant and for the unborn fetus. Why is that? Because young babies and children are 7 times more sensitive to MSG than adults. MSG consumption in children can interfere with both their biological and hormonal development.

How Can You Avoid MSG?

If everything we’ve discussed up until now has made you want to avoid ingesting monosodium glutamate, what can you do? You could simply try reading the ingredient labels of the products you buy. If you see any MSG, just don’t buy the product. However, as it turns out, this is not as safe as you’d think. Because you can find MSG in more than 40 other FDA-approved ingredients. The label can even read “no MSG added”. Technically, this is true, albeit not moral, some would debate. For example, keep in mind that if you see the words “spices” or “flavorings” on ingredient labels, one of these spices could be MSG.

monosodium glutamate in a bottle

Summing It All Up

Ultimately, is MSG dangerous to your health? Depending on whom you ask, the answer will differ. If you ask food manufacturers that benefit from the use of monosodium glutamate, the answer will be no. If you ask people who have experienced first-hand symptoms after consuming MSG, the answer will definitely be yes. Since the FDA has not officially recognized MSG as a threat, we suggest you try to avoid it as much as possible. Even if this can be a rather difficult task, and even if you do not experience short-term symptoms, there is no denying that you can live a healthier life without MSG.

Image Source: 1,2