What MSG does to your body?
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) causes weight gain: Some studies have linked MSG consumption to weight gain and obesity. There isn’t sufficient data and research to claim that MSG consumption is associated with obesity.
- MSG and children: It has been suggested that children would metabolize glutamate more slowly than adults. They may be more susceptible to the effects of MSG, if any.
- MSG causes neurotoxicity (nerve cell damage): Scientists have earlier claimed that MSG consumption results in the release of excessive glutamate levels in the brain, causing brain damage. However, these claims have been refuted by other scientists stating that MSG, when consumed in a lower amount, does not cause any neurotoxicity.
- MSG and pregnant or lactating women: Research studies on pregnant or lactating women suggests MSG or glutamate consumption does not have any adverse effect on mothers, fetuses nor breastfeeding infants.
- MSG poisoning: In some people, MSG consumption of more than 3 grams may induce a group of symptoms (Chinese restaurant syndrome), which includes
These symptoms are usually mild and resolve on their own.
- MSG on the intestine: Dietary glutamate derived from MSG or other sources is a primary source of energy for the intestine.
- MSG as an appetite enhancer: It enhances the taste in elderly people who have lost their taste and smell.
What is MSG?
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium form of the amino acid, glutamic acid, and a type of glutamate. MSG acts as a flavor enhancer when added to food. It is colorless, tasteless and does not have a texture of its own. It merely enhances the natural flavor of food. Glutamate is associated with the fifth taste, umami. Umami taste receptors have a particular affinity for free glutamate.
Replacing table salt with some MSG reduces the sodium content of food because MSG has two-thirds less sodium than table salt.
Is MSG really bad for your health?
Glutamate is one of the many amino acids (building blocks of protein) found naturally in the body. Glutamate may be naturally present in some protein-rich foods, such as cheese, milk, meat, fish and several different vegetables. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) levels are high especially in foods such as tomatoes, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. Thus, it is clear that consuming MSG within the allowed limit is not bad for your health.
Findings of one study concluded that MSG is safe, although some people who consume more than three grams of the substance may experience symptoms such as headache or drowsiness. The ideal serving of MSG should be less than 0.5 grams in food.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies MSG as “generally recognized as safe,” just like sugar and baking soda. The FDA also claims that the body metabolizes MSG exactly like it metabolizes natural glutamate.
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