Updating MSGdish readers on recent media attention to topics that we savor… MSG, Glutamate, Umami, and related food trends.

Savory Flavor-booster MSG Doesn’t Cause Headaches

Published in INSIDER, November 16, 2017

Author: Caroline Praderio

Lots of people still think that eating flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (better known as MSG) causes headaches, nausea, chest pain, and heart palpitations — a suite of symptoms once referred to as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”

“That fear is unfounded.

“In later human studies, MSG has failed to consistently cause those negative symptoms, even in people who believe they’re sensitive to it. Scientists now acknowledge that a very small percentage of people may react to MSG, according to the Mayo Clinic, but most people will have zero issues eating it in reasonable amounts.”

Relax, You Don’t Need to ‘Eat Clean’

Published in The New York Times, November 4, 2017

Author: Aaron E. Carroll

We talk about food in the negative: What we shouldn’t eat, what we’ll regret later, what’s evil, dangerously tempting, unhealthy.

“The effects are more insidious than any overindulgent amount of “bad food” can ever be. By fretting about food, we turn occasions for comfort and joy into sources of fear and anxiety. And when we avoid certain foods, we usually compensate by consuming too much of others.

“All of this happens under the guise of science. But a closer look at the research behind our food fears shows that many of our most demonized foods are actually fine for us. Taken to extremes, of course, dietary choices can be harmful — but that logic cuts both ways….

“The hullabaloo over gluten echoes the panic over MSG that began roughly half a century ago, and which has yet to fully subside. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is nothing more than a single sodium atom added to glutamic acid — an amino acid that is a key part of the mechanism by which our cells create energy. Without it, all oxygen-dependent life as we know it would die.

“A 1968 letter in The New England Journal of Medicine started the frenzy; the writer reported feeling numbness, weakness and palpitations after eating at a Chinese restaurant. A few limited studies followed, along with a spate of news articles….

“Many people still wrongly believe that MSG is poison. We certainly don’t need MSG in our diet, but we also don’t need to waste effort avoiding it. Our aversion to it shows how susceptible we are to misinterpreting scientific research and how slow we are to update our thinking when better research becomes available. There’s no evidence that people suffer disproportionately from the afflictions — now ranging from headaches to asthma — that MSG-averse cultures commonly associate with this ingredient. In studies all over the world, the case against MSG just doesn’t hold up.”


We Should All Be Adding MSG to Our Food, According to this Food Scientist

Published in VICE, October 10, 2017

Author: Alex Swerdloff

“Hold the MSG,” may become a statement of the past if food scientist Steve Witherly is to be believed.

“Witherly says MSG—aka monosodium glutamate, a sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is a non-essential amino acid—is actually good for you. He even calls it “supersalt” and tries to get his kids to eat more of it.”

“Witherly says MSG is healthy for kids, because a dash of it can encourage them to eat more vegetables. And contrary to most people’s perception, MSG occurs naturally in tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and other food; it is known to enhance flavor and packs an umami blast.”

Is MSG Bad for You? [Infographic]

Published in Lifehacker, October 10, 2017

Author: Chris Jager

Is MSG BadMSG has been blamed for everything from blinding headaches to unexplained numbness and it has been lambasted by many nutritionists as a result. However, it seems that this reputation is largely undeserved. The scientific evidence against the additive is scant, at best.”

“Interestingly, the ingredient is chemically identical to naturally occurring glutamate ions which are found in numerous foods including tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms and potatoes. Furthermore, there are precisely zero scientific studies linking MSG to any known health defects.”

What Is MSG, Anyway?

Published in Huffington Post, September 8, 2017

Author: Julie R. Thomson

MSG spoonfulMSG is one of the most notorious ingredients in the United States. The Japanese ingredient that’s commonly used in Chinese restaurants stateside, has been blamed for making people feel ill with symptoms ranging from headaches to asthma. (This reaction came to be known as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.)

Many studies have been done to determine a relationship between the consumption of MSG and the symptoms that comprise the syndrome mentioned above, but they have failed to find a link…

“MSG has an intense umami quality ― umami is essentially a savory flavor that doesn’t fall into the salty, sweet, sour or bitter categories of taste. It is basically umami in crystalline form.”