MSG May Not Be So Bad After All...

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Is MSG actually bad for you?  I grew up with my mom telling me to not eat a lot of foods that contain high levels of MSG, or MSG at all; such as Hamburger Helper, certain canned soups, fast foods, certain chips, and of course Chinese foods.  I was surprised to find that MSG was in the bagel chips my brother was eating over the weekend.  I asked his friends if they grew up being told MSG was bad for them and they didn't even recognize the term.  I was also surprised that some of my friends here at Penn State also didn't know what MSG was or were familiar with it at all.  So, is MSG actually bad for you or was my mom misinformed?

MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate, is found in a lot of your 'addictive foods.'  According the FDA, the food administration of the UK, and the World Health Organization, MSG is a safe ingredient.  The negative stigma that comes along with it is a result of anecdotal cases, just like we talked about in class with the negative effects of vaccinations.  People linked symptoms such as "headaches, flushing, sweating, numbness, chest pain, nausea, heart palpitations, and weakness" as side effects of consuming MSG.  This began in the 1960s and was known as the "Chinese Food Syndrome."  However, scientists consider MSG to be harmless and cannot find a connection between the symptoms and consumption of MSG.

The Glutamate component of MSG is found naturally occurring in the human body.  There are receptors on the tongue for Glutamate in the 'umami' taste bud region, which is why MSG is used so frequently in foods.  People crave the savory tastes that fall under the umami category, so therefore food processing companies will put MSG into their products so that people will enjoy them more and think they taste better.  Glutamate also has a lot to do with neurological and lipid hormone activity, which means it is possible to have too much of Glutamate.  It can excite these systems and make them overwork, causing metabolism to actually lower.  This is where obesity comes in.  People that have a lower metabolism rate, tend to be more on the obese side than those who have a fast rate.

Too much Glutamate has also been linked to neurological disorders.  For example, in 1957, John Olney and Lawrence Sharpe injected monkeys with MSG and found that it caused holes to form in the central nervous system which cased epilepsy.  It was concluded from this study that other neurological disorders could arise due to these holes; such as Alzheimer's and MS.

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However, why isn't the entire Asian population obese or suffering from neurological disorders since they consume a lot more MSG than the American population?  In a study published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers concluded that MSG is primarily digested in the gut and does not seep into the rest of the body in harmful amounts.  The deemed that 16 mg/kg of body weight was considered a safe and harmless amount and that in order for holes to occur in the lipid and neurological systems, a massive amount of MSG would have to be consumed.

Too much salt is bad for you, however.  Since there is a sodium component to MSG, I'm sure that has a lot to do with the negative stigma it has.  The types of foods it is in are also considered to be generally unhealthy for you, so this may also have something to do with it as well.  Was anyone else under the impression that MSG was a lot worse for you than it actually is?  My research has made me think twice about MSG, but I am probably still going to think poorly towards it just because of the types of foods it is in.


I am another person who has never heard of MSG. However, in my home the products it was in were never readily available to begin with. From the studies you listed it appears that it is a very safe ingredient especially due to the FDA, the food administration of the UK, and the World Health Organization approval. These groups are normally very cautious and take good care of their people. For this reason i will not worry. However, we aren't completely safe in the U.S. ... Pink Slime is a processed "meat" product that is typically used in pet food. However in 2011 it become legal to use it in certain foods for human consumption and can now be found in an estimated 70% of ground beef. This product has been exposed to ammonia gas and citric acid to kill bacteria. Only organic ground beef is guaranteed to not have it because most packaging still claims to be "100% ground beef" Pink Slime is not legal in Canada or anywhere in the European Union. Is there something we aren't seeing in the United States? Why is it safe for us but not anyone else?

I have stubbled with the MSG debate myself. My mother told me it was bad but the FDA approves it. I decided to look into this topic a little more and it turns out that there is a such thing as natural glutamate that is found in cheeses and ham. This has not been associated with any of the negative side effects that had been linked to MSG despite sharing the same chemical properties. I think it is strange that people would react to MSG and not natural glutamate despite the fact that they are identical. I still do not know if MSG is safe or not but if it's chemically identical counter part is then I do not see why it wouldn't be

I have always been aware of MSG but my teachings of the ingridient were different from yours. I was always just informed that MSG is just simply salt and I learned the same thing in my Culinary Arts course in High School. Is there a significant difference between MSG and salt? I actually came to find that MSG is a sort of enhancer for flavors and it reduces the amounts needed for flavor significantly. It is said to come from a chemical "created amino acid." Whereas salt is a preservant and additive for flavor coming from salt mines or the ocean. The worry with glutamates is that our body already contains them and they are fast dissovling in our bloodstream so the high intake of MSG is feared to cause some type of irreversible damage to our internal structure. I myself have had high amounts of MSG, I used to eat out every day just about and lived off of canned foods. Personally I think these are all just fairy tales and there isn't any outstanding affects of the MSG compound that is being put into the foods. It is naturally found in some foods already so it can't be that bad.This is again another factor that I would associate with the genetic makeup of an individual.

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