By Curt Guillory
You see it everywhere don’t you? “No MSG” stated on sauces, on restaurant menus and even bottles of seasoning. Labels claim that it’s horrible, toxic and should even be banned. However, it’s none of those things.
Once again, we’ve allowed ourselves to be lured into hysteria over an ingredient because someone published a flawed study and certain media groups adopted it as the gospel.
What is MSG:
MSG is an acronym for monosodium glutamate. This is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found in many foods such as soy sauce, walnuts, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas, pecans and Parmesan cheese. It is also a primary flavor enhancer found in many Asian food recipes and seasonings.
The list of supposed ill effects associated with eating MSG is called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, or CRS. It was discovered over 100 years ago by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda who discovered that it had unique flavor enhancing properties. (1)
MSG’s bad rap began around 1962 when a Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok published a letter in The New England Journal of Medicine. He sited allergic type reactions every time he ate food from a Chinese restaurant. As it turns out his letter was a Kwok of you know what.
Having more holes in it than Swiss cheese, which also has MSG, didn’t stop a neuroscientist, Dr. John Olney, from publishing a study in Science. The study detailed the horrible effects of injecting MSG into white lab mice, which included brain lesions and impaired development. The problem with the study was twofold.
First, was that the MSG was injected under the skin and second was that he gave mice enough MSG for a horse. Humans ingest MSG through the gut where it is processed differently than a subdermal injection, moreover too much of anything is toxic.
Did you know that you could die from drinking too much pure water? It’s called water toxicity and it’s a real thing.
Would the Real MSG Please Stand Up:
In the subsequent years following these bad studies, media outlets have run with the idea that MSG should be banned. Several peer reviewed, double blind, placebo controlled studies have conclusively determined that MSG has NO ill effects on humans when consumed in reasonable amounts.
What’s a reasonable amount? About 0.55 grams per day for those of you who may be counting.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the guys who we trust to tell us if what we put in our body is OK, lists MSG as G.R.A.S. (2) or generally recognized as safe. That’s the list of things that are safe to consume.
To be clear, there are no documented case studies where adverse reactions to MSG can be reproduced. No headaches, brain lesions, cancer, or respiratory problems are a result of consuming MSG.
Enhance Your Flavor:
Stop freaking out about MSG. It’s not bad for you, nor will it hurt you. If someone, including you, gets a headache after eating Chinese food, it’s not from the MSG. It’s probably one of the other 50 or so plant derived spices they use or possibly just too much tea.