Is Monosodium glutamate (MSG) really safe?

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I’ve heard a dozen of rumors about this already. Some says using monosodium glutamate in foods is not safe. So I did a few browsing and ended up writing this article instead.

Monosodium glutamate or MSG is a type of flavor enhancer commonly added to food, canned vegetables, processed meats and even soups. It appears as a white crystalline powder which rapidly dissolves when combined with water. Although being approved by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA), the use of Monosodium glutamate remained as an issue among the many.

Anecdotal reports stated that some people showed MSG intolerance which causes a symptom complex and worsening asthmatic symptoms. However, comprehensive reviews and researches that were sponsored by FDA proved no definitive evidence that Monosodium glutamate is related to the symptoms these people described.

In 1995, FDA reaffirmed the safety of MSG consumption for cooking and food manufacturing. The report found no evidence that links MSG to any long-term health problems such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, it did acknowledge that short-term reactions may be experienced by some people, known as the MSG complex. These reactions could include:

  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in or around the mouth
  • Chest pain
  • Facial pressure or tightness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulties of breathing

These symptoms are usually mild. However in cases of severe reactions, doctors generally advice to avoid foods containing MSG.

So if you want to add an extra flavor to your favorite dish, Monosodium glutamate is still considered safe. But if you want to have a further option, why not try a bit of sugar instead?


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