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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MSG has Gotten a Bad Rap for "Causing" Allergies

food allergy.jpgThe following are excerpts (direct quotes, without modification) from the article, "Is MSG Bad for Your Health," written by Chau Tu and appearing in Science Friday on October 2, 2014.

"I see people all the time who are absolutely convinced that their allergic reactions are caused by MSG--it causes this, it causes that," says allergist and immunologist Katharine Woessner of the Scripps Clinic Medical Group, who conducted a study on MSG's effects. But, she says, "I think there's a great misunderstanding."

Indeed, most scientists today agree that the notion that MSG causes sickness in humans is unfounded.

Ken Lee, a professor and the director of food innovation at The Ohio State University, states, "It's not true that MSG has any kind of toxic or causative role in food allergies." Dr. Lee breaks down his reasoning: "MSG stands for monosodium glutamate. So sodium--everybody knows what that is--[is] the first ingredient in common table salt." Meanwhile, glutamate, the basic component of MSG, "is a synonym for glutamic acid [and] is a naturally occurring amino acid. It's one of the building blocks of protein," explains Dr. Lee. In aqueous solutions, MSG breaks down to sodium and glutamate.

In 1999, Katherine Woessner's team conducted a single-blind, placebo-controlled study to test the effects of MSG on 100 asthmatic patients (an earlier paper suggested that asthmatics with a sensitivity to aspirin might be sensitive to MSG). The researchers found that, while 30 participants believed they had a history of CRS [the so-called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome"], only one showed signs of reduced lung function after exposure to MSG. When that subject was tested again--this time in a double-blind, placebo-controlled challenge--the test came out negative.

Then in 2000, researchers conducted the largest double-blind, placebo-controlled study on MSG, consisting of 130 subjects who said they were sensitive to it. The researchers found that MSG produced short-lasting and minor reactions in a subset of people--but these could not be reproduced consistently upon retesting.

Meanwhile, the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] calls MSG "generally recognized as safe" (a classification that the agency originally made in 1959). On its website, the agency writes, "Although many people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions."

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