Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that’s “generally recognized as safe,” the use of MSG remains controversial.
Over the years, the FDA has received many anecdotal reports of adverse
reactions to foods containing MSG. These reactions — known as MSG symptom complex — include:
- Facial pressure or tightness
- Numbness, tingling or burning in face, neck and other areas
- Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
While the benefits of MSG to our food industry are quite clear, this food additive slowly and silently doing major damage to your health.
There are a couple of main reasons why MSG is one of the worst food additives in the market. First, as Dr. Blaylock, author of the highly recommended Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, says in the video, MSG is an excitotoxin, which means that it overexcites your cells to the point of damage, acting as a poison. The second part of the equation is that MSG can be literally hidden in food labels, under names like broth, casein, hydrolyzed, autolyzed, and more, making it extremely difficult to identify.
You may remember when MSG powder called “Accent” first hit the U.S. market. Well, it was many decades prior to this, in 1908, that monosodium glutamate was invented. The inventor was Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese man who identified the natural flavor enhancing substance of seaweed.
Taking a hint from this substance, they were able to create the man-made additive MSG, and he and a partner went on to form Ajinomoto, which is now the world’s largest producer of MSG (and interestingly also a drug manufacturer).
It’s a misconception that MSG is a flavor or “meat tenderizer.” In reality, MSG has very little taste at all, yet when you eat MSG, you think the food you’re eating has more protein and tastes better. It does this by tricking your tongue, using a little-known fifth basic taste: umami.
Umami is the taste of glutamate, which is a savory flavor found in many Japanese foods, bacon and also in the toxic food additive MSG. It is because of umami that foods with MSG taste heartier, more robust and generally better to a lot of people than foods without it.
The ingredient didn’t become widespread in the United States until after World War II, when the U.S. military realized Japanese rations were much tastier than the U.S. versions because of MSG.
In 1959, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled MSG as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS), and it has remained that way ever since. Yet, it was a telling sign when just 10 years later a condition known as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” entered the medical literature, describing the numerous side effects, from numbness to heart palpitations, that people experienced after eating MSG.
Today that syndrome is more appropriately called “MSG Symptom Complex,” which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifies as “short-term reactions” to MSG. More on those “reactions” to come.
For years MSG Symptom Complex has been known in the US by the misnomer Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. We do not use that term anywhere on this site, except this page. The reason is quite simple. Calling this health problem Chinese Restaurant Syndrome not only does a disservice to Chinese Restaurant owners who do not add MSG, but it also dangerously hides the fact that American processed food is now so loaded with the flavor enhancer Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) as to be the largest source of MSG in the average American diet. Most Americans, when told MSG is harmful respond with “I don’t eat Chinese food, so I don’t need to worry”.
It is interesting to note the joke that after eating MSG in foods at a Chinese restaurant “you are hungry an hour later”, may have some merit. The glutamate in MSG acts as an insulin trigger. This will definitely give you a hunger response about an hour and a half later. This fact has not been lost on American food manufacturers. They know the value of an addictive food ingredient. If they keep you hungry for more, they have succeeded.
The Japanese company called Ajinomoto – only recently found guilty of price-fixing MSG on the world market, is today the prime maker of MSG. Japan is also where taurine and CoQ10 are now used to treat heart disease, and ginger and taurine-rich sushi are eaten alongside MSG sprinkled food. These foods have protective effects against an MSG reaction. However, even the Japanese have found recently that MSG fed to mice can lead to blindness. The Japanese are concerned about the health affects of MSG. Should we not be also?