Michael Hull | HealthGreatness

MSG is a pariah of the clean living community. It has been blamed for causing everything from headaches and nausea to exacerbating Autism Spectrum Disorder and triggering cardiac arrhythmias. Many a health website have railed against that ‘evil’ food additive, but most of these fears stem from a dubious study published back in 1969. This study looked at people that had consumed a large amount of MSG while eating at a Chinese restaurant who went on to experience burning, facial pressure, and chest pain. Thus, the term Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) was added into the pop culture vernacular. Unfortunately, this study was poorly conducted and not properly controlled. Nonetheless, an MGS panic had been born.

What Is MSG?

Monosodium Glutamate is what you get when you bind the amino acid glutamate to sodium. This similar to the way sodium binds with chloride to form good old table salt. When added to a dish, MSG acts to enhance the flavor of umami, the savory flavor we experience from eating protein.

MSG is a naturally occurring substance that is found in many of the foods you eat every day, including tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and potatoes. Meat, dairy products, seaweed, and many vegetables have higher levels of glutamate than you would typically consume at a Chinese restaurant. Your body actually produces glutamate as part of the metabolic process and is an important building block for creating protein. It serves an additional purpose as a neurotransmitter, helping to carry nerve impulses throughout the body. On average, you will consume about 13 grams of glutamate every day from food and an estimated 0.55 grams from added MSG.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in wood spoon

What About Health Implications?

Because of all these reported side effects, the FDA had the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology look into the safety of MSG. They found that consuming 3 grams on an empty stomach could produce mild symptoms in a tiny percent of the population. However, consuming 3 grams of MSG is not something the average person will encounter unless they are trying really hard. Further research has found that people who reported reactions to MSG could not consistently reproduce them when exposed multiple times and no association has been found between MSG and asthma.


The next time you visit a Chinese restaurant, do not be afraid if no “No MSG” sign is posted. Enjoy your meal knowing that you are not destroying your health with this harmless food additive. There are many other things you can spend your time worrying about. MSG is not one of them.