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Monosodium glutamate

MSG and its effects

Chances are, you’ve eaten some MSG (Monosodium glutamate) within the last 24 hours. It’s in nearly all prepared foods. Therefore the glutamate present in MSG is chemically just like the glutamate naturally found altogether sorts of foods, like Parmesan cheese, green peas, and tomatoes. There is no denying its transformative culinary power. In its pure crystalline form, MSG are often added to soups, stews, sauces, and stocks to feature a rounded, savory flavor. Like regular salt , MSG also can help boost our perception of other existing flavors. Tomato soup with a pinch of MSG tastes a touch more tomato-y. Add a touch to stew to form it taste beefier.

Monosodium glutamate

MSG may be a sodium salt of glutaminic acid (an α-amino acid). It had been first isolated in 1908 by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda, who was trying to get exactly what gave dashi. Dashi is the Japanese broth flavored with kombu (giant sea kelp) —its strong, savory character. Seems that kombu is full of glutaminic acid .

It had been Ikeda who coined the term umami. Umami translates as “savory,” to explain the taste of glutaminic acid (and other similar amino acids). Until that time , scientists had only discovered the opposite four flavors sensed by the tongue and soft palate: salty, sweet, sour, and bitter.

By 1909, pure crystalline MSG extracted from the abundant kelp within the sea ​​around Japan was being sold under the Surname Aji-no-moto (roughly, “element of flavor”). The corporate exists to the present day, though with the present high demand for MSG, the synthesization of chemical instead of extraction. Pure MSG powder is out there under variety of brand name names (like Ac’cent). Also, glutamic acid-rich ingredients are extensively in packaged foods. Typically it is within the sort of autolyzed yeast extract or hydrolyzed soy protein. All well and good with MSG until the late 1960s.

The Myth

The term “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” started getting thrown around in 1968.  New England Journal Of Drugs published a letter written by a reader named Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok. In it, he speculated that the numbness and palpitations he experienced after eating in Chinese restaurants could also have link to the liberal use of powdered MSG (Monosodium glutamate) in Chinese food.

He presented no actual evidence . But the thought took off and went viral. And for many years MSG put under blame for everything from migraines and numbness to bloat and heart palpitations. MSG-phobia was born. It exists to the present day, though the racially-tinged pejorative “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” has since been swapped out for “MSG Symptom Complex.”

More recently, there’s been a wave of anti-anti-MSG backlash. Article after article claims that science has proven that MSG has no ill effects. These articles are as guilty of misrepresenting scientific data as those that spread the thought of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome within the first place. Let’s take a glance at the particular science.

Monosodium glutamate

The Studies

A 1970 study by Dr. John Olney published in Nature found that injecting high doses of MSG under the skin of infant mice caused retinal damage, brain damage, and obesity as adults. We’re talking huge doses of MSG injected directly into baby rodents here, a far cry from the tiny amounts ingested orally by humans. Meta-study on April 2000 within the Journal of Nutrition found that in 21 studies of MSG conducted on primates. Only two identified links between oral consumption and neurotoxicity. Olney’s laboratory performed both of those studies , and no-one has been ready to repeat those results since.

Moreover, even in mice (the experimental species most sensitive to MSG), the oral dose of MSG required to supply brain lesions was one gram per kilogram of weight , an absolutely massive amount Like a 170-pound person eating a 3rd of a cup of pure MSG during a single sitting, with no food, on an empty stomach. This is often about the quantity of added MSG a mean adult consumes in half a year.



Both the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and therefore the Federation of yank Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) have done meta-studies on available experimental data. The conclusion was that while very large doses of MSG can cause both degenerative neuron damage and disrupt hormonal function in animal tests. There’s no evidence to suggest any quite long-term damage to humans in ordinary doses.

So far so good. looks like the anti-anti-MSG folks are right. But what about short-term effects, ie Monosodium glutamate Symptom Complex? Surely not everyone who feels the short term symptoms of consuming MSG are often hallucinating, can they?

A 1993 study from the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that during a normal cross-section of the healthy population, there was little to no correspondence between MSG consumption and MSG Symptom Complex, especially when MSG consumption was with food. In fact, the consequences were no greater than that of a placebo.

Doesn’t sound so good for the MSG haters.

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

But not so almost. What about in people that specifically self-identify as being sensitive to MSG? Here things get more interesting. During a November 2000 study from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Scientists administered increasing doses of MSG and a placebo to 130 adults who self-identified as MSG-sensitive. Although responses to MSG weren’t completely according to repeated testing. Testing subjects generally showed more reactions to actual MSG (38% of respondents) versus a placebo (13% of respondents).

The conclusion of the study was that MSG does, in fact, elicit adverse responses from a very sensitive subgroup of the population.  It shows effects when administered in large doses (greater than three grams) on a mostly empty stomach. The existence of Monosodium glutamate Symptom Complex is concrete observation .