Is MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) Unhealthy?

MSG stands for Monosodium Glutamate, also known as Ajinomoto. It is extensively used in Chinese dishes to give an umami taste. By adding Ajinomoto, the flavors are instantly enhanced, clicking your tongue just after the first bite.

Monosodium Glutamate is the purest form of umami, also known as the fifth taste. It is also used in sauces, broths, and soups. Many researchers and doctors have been telling us about the adverse effects of MSG and how its consumption is harmful to our cardiovascular health.

Today we will be looking out for facts about this umami urge. But before that, what are the other food products that contain MSG?

Other Foodstuffs in Which MSG Occurs Naturally

  • Animal-based proteins like chicken, beef, pork, etc.
  • Cheeses like Parmesan, Cheddar, Emmenthal.
  • Processed meats like pepperoni, Salami, Ham, pastrami, etc.
  • Sauces and dressings like soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise.
  • Condiments- seasoning blends and rubs.
  • Premades

What is MSG made from?

adult biology chemical chemist
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MSG is derived from Glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid found in the creation of proteins. It is white, crystalline, and odorless and is used as a common food additive. Also known as E621, it dissolves in water easily and separates sodium and glutamate.

Even though it is used commonly in foods, the product is not advertised anywhere. That is because of the fear-mongering and myths on the internet. MSG is naturally found in tomatoes and cheese. Furthermore, L-glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid that is not required by the body. 

Is MSG So Unhealthy?

MSG is safe to consume in moderation. The widespread myth of MSG being bad for health started when a Chinese-American person got sick after consuming MSG. This incident was published in the New England Journal. Later, several studies showed how the infamous umami dust created fear in people’s minds. 

This fear remained for a long time because of-

  • Lack of research and accuracy.
  • Extremely high dosages do not exhibit the regular patterns of food.
  • Questionable research methods.

The older evidence showed that MSG disrupts the signaling effect of the hormone released by the brain, called Leptin. Leptin is responsible for telling the body whether enough food is consumed or not, which might increase your calorie intake.

Now, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recognizes that 30 mg of MSG as per bodily weight is entirely safe to consume. The current researches show more good than harm about MSG. They connect the contribution to the nutritional factor:

  • Increases satiety (can also be linked to the satiety of the nutrient being consumed- for example, Carbohydrates.)
  • MSG-enriched meals can lead to an intake of fewer calories.

MSG Symptom Complex

Image Credits: Ajinomoto

Some people might be sensitive to MSG, which is called MSG symptom complex and affects less than 1% of the total population worldwide. Those who have this condition experience a variety of symptoms like-

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Numbness
  • Muscle tightness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Unconsciousness.

Current data also shows that this umami urge is an anti-obesity ingredient and has no effect on the weight or BMI aspects.

Did you know that MSG reduces salt consumption by up to 3% without compromising flavor and taste?

Conclusion

With recent research and development, it has been concluded that MSG is safe to consume in moderation. It has less sodium than common salt and can help maintain cardiovascular health by reducing the amount of salt in the food.

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