MSG or Monosodium Glutamate (or as many know it by its brand name, Ajinomoto) is a sodium salt of the naturally occuring glutamic acid. It is marketed as a “flavour enhancer” that is most commonly associated with Chinese fast food. There have been numerous debates and arguments about the health effects of Ajinomoto. It has been blamed for effects as varied as mild headaches, muscle cramps, brain damage and heart palpitations. There was even a study in 1968 where the health effects of Ajinomoto was studied as the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”. Several studies and investigations later, it turns out that there are no negative health effects of Ajinomoto. The US FDA has classified MSG as a “generally regarded as safe” food ingredient. Though it mentions that some people might have an MSG intolerance, it is safe for most people when eaten at “customary levels”
Not Just Chinese Food
Ajinomoto/MSG is no longer just a Chinese food “secret ingredient,” it is also found in:
- Stock cubes or bouillon cubes.
- Condiments such as barbecue sauce and salad dressings.
- Canned, frozen, or dried prepared food
- Snack foods like flavoured jerky, flavoured potato chips and flavoured tortilla chips.
- Seasoning mixtures.
Research into Health Effects
The use of Ajinomoto/MSG is extremely controversial because it has been “associated” with these illnesses:
- Facial pressure or tightness
- Numbness, tingling or burning in face, neck and other areas
- Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
Studies to establish a connection between Ajinomoto/MSG and diseases include:
- MSG causes obesity have given mixed results.
- Migraine headaches
- Food allergies in children
- Hyperactivity in children
Researchers have found that there is no scientific connection between Ajinomoto/MSG and any of these illnesses. At most, some people might have short-term reactions to consuming food containing Ajinomoto/MSG and should simply not do it again.
Based on animal studies, German experts say that a daily intake of glutamic acid of 6 grams per kilogram of body weight (6 g/kg/day) is safe. From human studies, experts noted said that doses as high as 147 g/day produced no adverse effects in males when given for 30 days; in a 70 kg male that corresponds to 2.1 g per kg of body weight.
If you’ve had a negative experience with Ajinomoto/MSG, it’s probably better that you stay away from it. And remember, “No MSG” or “No Added MSG” doesn’t mean that it is free of other glutamates, such as hydrolyzed protein.