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Monosodium Glutamate – MSG: Is it Safe Or Not ?
- Updated: August 27, 2014
MSG, more formally known as “Monosodium Glutamate” has had a long-running bad reputation, which started in 1968 when a publication came out in the New England Journal of Medicine. At that time, a scientist reported having experienced what he referred to as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” after dining on Chinese food. He went on to claim having experienced numbness in the neck that radiated to his back and arms, coupled with heart palpitations and overall weakness.
Because of this publication, blame was placed on MSG but with research completed over the next 20 some years, the scientist’s claim that a normal dose of MSG caused mysterious health problems was not supported.
MSG, is a food enhancing agent first discovered in Japan in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese chemist. He found that a common amino acid called L-Glutamate, associated with seaweed, which has been used to enhance food flavors for centuries, was actually available from many different food sources but also produced naturally in the body while food is processed.
When added to food, MSG increases glutamate, which produces a reaction with the human tongue whereby food has a more savory flavor. Unfortunately, MSG’s reputation has remained bad for close to 50 years but today, scientific research shows this flavor enhancer is perfectly safe for most people.
Although MSG can cause temporary effects, it affects very few people and even then, it has to be consumed in large quantities and on an empty stomach.
Of those who do have a reaction to MSG, the most common complaints include headache, sweating, and fatigue. However, with new research, again the number of people who have any reaction at all is extremely small.
Today, most Chinese restaurants use MSG in food preparation to enhance flavor and make food more savory but because of the long-standing myth of this being a potentially dangerous ingredient pertaining to health, they also post signs for customers to see, warning that MSG is used.