Monosodium Glutamate

For years I have heard about how monosodium glutamate is a poison added to food by food companies and fast-food chains to enhance the flavour of our food and leave us wanting more. The so-called negative effects are truly ghastly. I decided to do some research and find out the truth for myself.

What is Monosodium Glutamate?

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a salt of the amino acid - Glutamic Acid (glutamate) and is widely used by many food producers all the way from canned food to fast-food.

Why is MSG used?

The food industry uses MSG as a flavor enhancer with an umami taste that intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food.


Haters say

It gives you Chinese restaurant syndrome. A phenomena which causes numbness and sometimes tingling sensations in the arms, face and neck.

It is a toxic artificial additive in food that makes you crave more food.

It's unhealthy.

It damages your retinas.

It is a powerful neural transmitter (excitotoxin).

It has crack like effects on your body.

Scientists say

MSG is given the highest safety raking by food watchdogs around the world.

MSG is a chemical in the same way that water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen.

Due to the public outcry after years of erroneous reports about the "negative" health effects ; the food industry changed the way MSG was presented to people by renaming it under various guises. So it's highly likely that people who are "intolerant" have been eating it anyway. In a great article (link at the bottom of the page) the author tells of how he was secretly feeding food laced with MSG to his friend who was at the same time telling him how he was allergic to MSG as he had experienced symptoms in a chinese restaurant.

MSGs' aliases

monopotassium glutamate
glutamic acid
autolyzed yeast extract
calcium caseinate
sodium caseinate
E621 (E620-625 are all glutamates)
Ajinomoto, Ac'cent
Gourmet Powder


Damage to the retinas was recorded in rats given massive doses of MSG other tests involving high doses in humans have showed no problems.

Glutamate, be it "natural" or "chemically produced" is chemically the same and is treated so by the body.

Chinese restaurant syndrome is based entirely on anecdotal evidence. If someone who eats large quantities of chinese food feels a little ill it's probably more to do with the quantity of food (and beer/wine) rather than MSG.

MSG may actually have a health-benefit. Using MSG as a replacement for salt reduces your table salt intake.

Glutamate appears in large quantities in many food sources we all eat such as...

The following may contain MSG natural flavours or seasonings

natural beef or chicken flavouring
hydrolyzed milk or plant protein
textured protein
soy sauce

The verdict

It seems as though MSG is completely and utterly safe. Who'd have thought? As i was doing the research for this article ibecame increasingly bored. It turns out MSG is well researched and has been largely ignored in recent years as the weight of opinion is so far over into the "safe" camp that doing further research into the "unhealthy" camp just left me trawling through conspiracy theory websites and other such cuckoo locations so please excuse the shortness of this piece.

For a more in-depth article about MSG please read this excellent article courtesy of The Guardian called If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn't everyone in Asia have a headache?

As always; in the unlikely event of any changes to the scientific communities opinion on MSG you will hear from it here.