Is MSG Bad For You? Exploring The Science Behind The Claim
Image Credit: Better Homes & Gardens

Nearly all kinds of prepared foods contain some amount of chemicals similar to the composition of what is found in monosodium glutamate – or MSG, as we know it. While it is naturally found in food items like parmesan cheese, green peas and tomatoes, the pearly white crystals can be added to pretty much all kinds of dishes – from stews, soups, sauces and stocks, for that extra elevated umami flavour. Like salt, the purpose of MSG is also to boost and highlight other flavours present in our food.

However, despite its delicious effect on everything we consume, we’re often faced with doubts about eating roadside Chinese food or not buying certain snacks that have the ‘contains MSG’ sign staring back at us. But how much truth do these theories really hold in the present day? According to a study by the FDA, the average adult consumes 13 grams of glutamate from natural sources, in a day along with an additional .55 grams from miscellaneous sources. To illustrate this further, the body does not register the source of where a certain type of chemical has come from but only responds to what it receives.

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Hence, contemplating about whether your glutamate intake came from a wedge of parmesan or a packet of chips is a futile case to make against MSG. Moreover, a study from November 2000 concludes that consuming glutamate excessively or on an empty stomach may elicit adverse health effects. In fact, the chances of facing numbness or chemical poisoning of any kind might happen when you consume an excess of any of these foods; namely – mushrooms, carrots, soybeans, pork, chicken, anchovies and tomatoes.

In all likelihood, chances of one being fine are higher when you use MSG or aji-no-moto, well within the suggested limits or making sure to eat foods that do not contain glutamates, before consuming anything with a slight MSG content. However, if you are sensitive to consumption and observe yourself developing harsh allergic reactions, it is best to avoid or steer clear of the synthetic stuff. Additionally, there isn’t any proven scientific data linking the negative effects of MSG usage in Chinese food; so it’s safe to say that you can dig into your fried rice and manchurian with gusto!