MSG (monosodium glutamate), also known as umami seasoning or Ajinomoto, is an extremely common ingredient in our diet. Despite this, the additive has been under heated discussions for causing allergies, digestive issues, and more. But is it really that harmful?
As with any other food, it is perfectly possible that you’re allergic to MSG. But it rarely is the sole cause of any of your health issues.1 Let’s clear a few common misconceptions about MSG and help you decide if you can have MSG in peace.
5 Common Myths And Misconceptions About MSG
1. You can avoid MSG by avoiding Chinese food.
A lot of people think of MSG and Chinese food simultaneously and as more or less the same. While MSG is definitely found in this cuisine, it doesn’t end its reign there. MSG or glutamate is found is a lot of additives used in packaged snacks, sauces, Parmesan cheese, and more.
You’d also be surprised to know that it is found naturally in breast milk, tomatoes, meat, asparagus, mushrooms, and Japanese kombu seaweed.
2. MSG consumption causes the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.
This is one myth that has been blown out of proportion. The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome came into existence when some researchers observed people who felt discomfort and certain symptoms always after eating at a Chinese restaurant. These studies attributed it to MSG allergy. Since then, the US Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly maintained its opinion that MSG is perfectly safe for consumption.
The “symptoms” of the syndrome that were observed might be allergic reactions to excess MSG consumption or because your tummy is just not used to managing such strong flavors.
3. MSG contains a high level of sodium.
MSG contains a much lesser quantity of sodium than your regular table salt. So if you’re looking to reduce your sodium intake, just replace salt with a tiny bit of MSG. With less quantity, you reduce sodium intake and there’s not much chance of triggering allergies.
4. MSG always causes allergies.
This is partially true. As mentioned earlier, MSG is naturally present in quite a few regular foods. In a normal diet, it’s very likely that you consume glutamate at least once a day. So unless your body is particularly sensitive to glutamate, you won’t have allergic reactions to MSG. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has even declared that MSG is not an allergen.
Such an allergic reaction also depends on one other factor – how you use MSG. An intense concentration of MSG in foods might be too strong for your body to handle.
5. MSG leads to weight gain and obesity.
This is true only to an extent. According to research, MSG might contribute to your weight gain as the added flavor makes you feel like eating more.2 Some also believe that MSG interrupts neurons that signal appetite control. However, it is quite silly to say that just this additive made you gain weight.
In the end, your appetite, diet, and lifestyle are under your control. A little bit of MSG in your food once in a while is in no way stronger than your will power. Just know your body’s limits.
Similar to all other foods, MSG can have both positive and negative effects. Just know that moderate consumption of MSG will not expose you to any health risks. To be on the safer side, you can even slowly expose your palate to low doses of MSG and prevent/reduce any possible side effects.3
|↑1||Williams, A. N., and K. M. Woessner. “Monosodium glutamate ‘allergy’: menace or myth?.” Clinical & Experimental Allergy 39, no. 5 (2009): 640-646.|
|↑2||He, Ka, Shufa Du, Pengcheng Xun, Sangita Sharma, Huijun Wang, Fengying Zhai, and Barry Popkin. “Consumption of monosodium glutamate in relation to incidence of overweight in Chinese adults: China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS).” The American journal of clinical nutrition 93, no. 6 (2011): 1328-1336.|
|↑3||Xiong, Jennifer S., Debbie Branigan, and Minghua Li. “Deciphering the MSG controversy.” Int J Clin Exp Med 2, no. 4 (2009): 329-36.|