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Is MSG Really That Dangerous?

MSG, monosodium glutamate, is the salt of an amino acid that is commonly used as a flavor enhancer.

Glutamate by itself is even used as a flavor enhancer. Originating out of Japan, MSG has been used for years without much scrutiny. When MSG was first discovered, it was as an extract of seaweed.

Is MSG something we should avoid at all costs? Now that MSG has become common worldwide, we have heard complaints of headaches and other side effects through our friends and the media. However, very few people actually have a bad reaction to MSG. Researchers estimate 25-40% of the world population may be sensitive to MSG.

There have been few documented cases of people having nausea, headaches, tensed breathing, facial pressure, rapid heart beat, and other flu-like symptoms. The most common and likely side effect would be a headache if you happen to be MSG sensitive.

MSG is very similar in composition to soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce which we never hear such negative comments about. There have been countless studies performed on MSG and most all come back with the conclusion that there is no link between MSG and harmful effects (according to Even the Japanese, who consume large amounts, rarely report negative reactions.

Which Foods Contain MSG

We typically think of MSG in food at Chinese restaurants, but these days it is more common in fast food and processed foods.

Chips and crackers
Salty snack foods
Condiments and dressings
Seasoning blends and packets
Aged and dried meats
Frozen dinners


Most of the foods that contain MSG are the more processed, high sodium, low nutritional value foods. So, this may be why people see a link between higher MSG consumption and increased risk of obesity or other health problems.

There is no reason to avoid MSG unless you have a bad reaction or are sensitive. It has been used for years to get the elderly to eat their food. There is especially no need to avoid glutamate which is found in hundreds of different foods, and even exists naturally in our own bodies.

Editor’s Note: MSG is often not listed as such in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, but instead listed as food additive #621 in the ingredients label.

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