Is MSG Safe to Consume?

Is MSG Safe to Consume?

To increase the taste of food to be more savory, additives are often used, including MSG. But what exactly is the effect of MSG and is it safe to consume?

MSG or short for monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer that is usually added to food. Although the Food and Drug Administration, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) include MSG in the classification of foodstuffs that are “generally considered safe”, the use of the additive remains controversial.

Learn More about MSG

MSG is a sodium molecule combined with glutamic acid. Sodium molecules are used to stabilize the glutamate molecules, while glutamic acid serves as a flavor enhancer.

Some scientists refer to glutamate as "umami", a name for the fifth taste that can be felt by the human sense of taste, besides sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.

The umami taste and use of MSG has long been a key ingredient in Asian cuisine, especially Chinese food. Glutamate actually has no taste, but it can enhance other flavors and add a savory taste.

Things to Note About MSG

The negative effects of MSG on health began to be questioned in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968. A doctor described a negative reaction he experienced after consuming Chinese-American food, he highlighted MSG as one of the potential causes of the reaction.

By the late 1960s, more and more people were talking about it. The situation at that time was better known as the "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome".

Research over the last forty years suggests that some people have a sensitivity or allergy to MSG. Everyone's sensitivity level to MSG is different. In one study, it was seen that those who consumed 3 grams of MSG in one serving of food complained of more symptoms, such as dizziness, muscle tension, tingling, and a flushed face.

In addition, the habit of consuming MSG in the long term has been shown to cause high blood pressure. Other research studies have also accused MSG as one of the causes of obesity, but this has not been scientifically confirmed. Furthermore, the consumption of MSG in pregnant women is also not known to be safe or not.

If you feel that you are one of those who experience this condition, try to limit the use of MSG, both in cooking and consumption of packaged foods. For those of you who do not have these negative reactions, there is no strong scientific evidence for the bad effects of MSG.

Reactions That Can Be Triggered by MSG

MSG has been used as a food additive for a long time. Various reports of reactions that can be triggered by MSG are known as MSG complex symptoms, including:
  • Body goes limp
  • Skin turns red
  • Pressure or tightness in the face
  • sweat
  • Numbness, tingling or burning in certain parts of the body, such as the neck and face
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea.

How To Keep It Delicious Without MSG?

It's actually not that hard to get a savory taste in your food without adding a sprinkling of MSG. The following are some types of foods that can increase the taste of naturally:
  • Tomato
  • Salty soy sauce
  • Mushroom
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Fish sauce
  • Seaweed
  • Olive
It is recommended that you limit the intake of MSG in your daily diet. But it never hurts to add MSG as a flavoring, in low or moderate doses, occasionally into your cooking.