MSG Facts vs. Fiction Explained in Recent News Reports

MSG glutamate umami facts.jpg

Science Friday, a nonprofit organization and trusted source for news about science, reports that there is no basis for claims that MSG may cause allergies. And a new study finds that umami flavor in the form of MSG promotes feelings of fullness, helping to satisfy appetite and potentially help with...

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New Video and Infographic Explain Why MSG is Perfectly Safe


According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), monosodium glutamate (MSG) has suffered from inaccurate consumer perceptions for too long - so the non-profit organization has decided to put the consumer myths about MSG to rest. In a new video released in August 2014, ACS corrects the myths about ...

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Glutamate Is Natural

Glutamate Is Natural

Glutamate is common throughout nature. It is a component of your body and your foods. The taste-imparting property of glutamate has long been used around the world to enhance the palatability of foods.

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MSG Safe Use

MSG Safe Use

Over one hundred years ago, Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University discovered the taste that is now recognized internationally as “umami.” It has been established for more than 10 years now that umami, which is the taste imparted by monosodium glutamate (MSG), stands alongside sweet, sour, salty and bitter as one of the five recognized basic tastes.

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Your Questions Answered.

IGIS Booklet on Glutamate and Umami Taste

IGIS Booklet - A4 Page Size (PDF, 700KB)

IGIS Booklet - US Page Size(PDF, 700KB)


While ingredient preparation and seasoning to enhance umami has been part of our food culture for millennia, the discovery that glutamate is the key to this basic taste is much more recent. Umami is a basic taste, our fifth with sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It is the taste that signals savoriness - protein from meat, fish, dairy products and vegetables. Glutamic acid is one of the 20 amino acids which are building blocks for all of the proteins in the body. Because it is made by the body as part of normal metabolism it is a non-essential amino acid.

As it is one of our basic tastes, it is not surprising that increasing umami in food is part of cooking culture all around the world. From ancient times to the present day, cooks have used ingredients to increase umami and savory tastiness.

The fact that we have evolved to taste glutamate is not a surprise once we realize that it is an amino acid found abundantly in food. It signals the presence of protein, our dietary source of the amino acids we need for healthy growth and development and for normal metabolism throughout life.

Glutamate is an important amino acid present in virtually every protein in the body. It plays a vital role in the function of many of the important organs, including the brain, and in healthy metabolism. The body does not distinguish between the glutamate occurring naturally in food and the glutamate added as seasoning - monosodium glutamate (MSG) brings nothing new to the diet.

The way in which we hunger for the tastes we need is demonstrated by nutrition studies among infants. Newborn babies have been shown to enjoy sweet and umami tastes and to dislike sour and bitter tastes. Umami taste may be recognized even before birth as human amniotic fluid contains significant levels of glutamate. Human breast milk, the sole source of nutrition for most children in their early months, is very rich in free glutamate. Indeed a newborn, breast-fed infant consumes free glutamate at levels far higher, for its weight, than we do from our diet later in life.

COOKING is a way of increasing umami in savory foods. Cooking results in the release of free glutamate and other umami substances, enhancing umami and creating a deliciously balanced final dish.

ADDING GLUTAMATE OR GLUTAMATE-RICH STOCK: Increasing the level of free glutamate in a dish, during cooking or processing is a simple and effective way to increase umami taste and balance. In recipe development, glutamate is added at levels similar to those in traditional recipes. The taste can also be enhanced by using glutamate-rich condiments to season the dish before serving or at the table.

TO REDUCE SALT: Adding salt (sodium chloride) to food is a traditional and popular way of enhancing the flavor and richness. However, too much sodium in the diet can be bad for health so many people are trying to reduce their salt intake. Studies have now demonstrated that by increasing the level of glutamate and decreasing the salt levels, the sodium content of recipes can be lowered by up to 40% with no loss in palatability.