Monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG, is a flavor enhancer commonly used in Chinese cuisine, canned goods and processed meats. Due to its appearance in these unhealthy foods, it's earned a reputation as a dangerous ingredient that should be avoided. But is MSG as bad as the past has claimed it to be? Here is a brief history of MSG, the negative aspects of it and some potential benefits that arise from eating foods with MSG:
Monosodium glutamate was discovered in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, a chemistry teacher at the University of Tokyo. Ikeda was curious as to why dash, a seaweed broth, tasted so good and began a study in 1907 that led to the discovery of MSG. Shortly thereafter, Ikeda patented the method for extracting MSG and so began its career as a commercial flavor enhancer.
MSG is the salt of an amino acid called glutamic acid. Glutamic acid can be found in common foods such as parmesan, tomatoes and even human breast milk. This food additive is well-known for its savory flavor --- described as umami --- that is classified as neither salty nor sweet. MSG is a flavorful ingredient that numerous top chefs embrace, and, while its a popular choice in commercial kitchens, many home cooks refuse to ever go near this ingredient due to the symptoms that arise from consuming MSG.
Although MSG provides a taste many of us have grown to love, the taboo surrounding this flavor enhancer remains. The Food and Drug Administration has labeled MSG as "generally recognized as safe." The FDA has also made it a requirement for all foods containing MSG to specify the presence of this ingredient on the label, as some symptoms may arise when consuming MSG.MSG symptom complex is the name used to describe the various symptoms that can arise from eating MSG-flavored foods, and signs of this condition can vary rather greatly. Reactions to MSG may include flushing, sweating, facial pressure, headache, numbness or burning of the face, rapid heartbeat, weakness, nausea and chest pain. Many of these symptoms mimic much more serious medical conditions such as heart attack or stroke. When experiencing symptoms from MSG, going to see a doctor should be a top priority..
MSG sensitivity can be avoided by cutting foods that contain the ingredient from your diet.
One potential benefit from consuming MSG is that it can help with weight loss -- studies have shown that consuming umami-flavored foods can help increase satiety, leading to a lower consumption of calories per meal. However, it's worth noting that foods containing MSG also lead to an increase in appetite, so take caution when eating MSG-enhanced foods so as not to overeat.