Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), the Taste that Becomes Toxic

by Pankaj Kotak, M.Sc., N.D.


Monosodium glutamate or MSG is a food additive and flavor enhancer that is used in a variety of different cuisines and food products. Commonly added to Chinese food and canned foods and meats, MSG is believed to cause several unpleasant reactions in people who are sensitive to it. The anti-MSG crusade began way back in 1968, when reports started pouring in referring to allergic reactions experienced after eating Chinese meals in restaurants. Since then, many studies have been conducted on the side effects of MSG. However, despite several anecdotal reports and research studies, there has not yet been a direct link established between MSG and many of the allergic symptoms. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to label MSG as an ingredient that is “generally recognized as safe” and has not made any attempts to ban its use.

What are the side effects of MSG?

The most common symptoms experienced by people who are sensitive to MSG include:

  • Headaches – Also known as MSG headaches, these headaches occur within thirty minute to a few hours after consuming food containing MSG. While the headache may disappear on its own after a few hours, there may be other accompanying symptoms such as weakness or drowsiness that last for another day or two.
  • Heart Palpitations – If you are sensitive to MSG, there is a possibility that eating food containing this harmful additive could result in irregular heartbeats and palpitations. These symptoms are caused by the over stimulation of nerve cells once the MSG is absorbed into the blood.
  • Breathing Difficulties – Too much MSG may decrease the amount of air that enters the lungs resulting in feelings of chest pain, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Nausea and Vomiting – If you are overcome by feelings of nausea after a restaurant meal or after consuming certain food products that contain MSG as an additive, you may be allergic to high amounts of MSG.
Besides the above there are many other side effects of MSG. Some of them include:
  • Excessive sweating
  • A feeling of tightness or pressure around the face
  • Numbness of the face and neck
  • Burning or tingling sensation around the face or neck
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Bronchospams (found in people with asthma who are sensitive to MSG)
  • Swelling of different areas of the body
  • In severe cases, MSG may cause paralysis or death in people.

How can you prevent a MSG allergic reaction?

  • Headaches – Also known as MSG headaches, these headaches occur within thirty minute to a few hours after consuming food containing MSG. While the headache may disappear on its own after a few hours, there may be other accompanying symptoms such as weakness or drowsiness that last for another day or two.
  • Heart Palpitations – If you are sensitive to MSG, there is a possibility that eating food containing this harmful additive could result in irregular heartbeats and palpitations. These symptoms are caused by the over stimulation of nerve cells once the MSG is absorbed into the blood.
  • Breathing Difficulties – Too much MSG may decrease the amount of air that enters the lungs resulting in feelings of chest pain, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Nausea and Vomiting – If you are overcome by feelings of nausea after a restaurant meal or after consuming certain food products that contain MSG as an additive, you may be allergic to high amounts of MSG.
Besides the above there are many other side effects of MSG. Some of them include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • A feeling of tightness or pressure around the face
  • Numbness of the face and neck
  • Burning or tingling sensation around the face or neck
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Bronchospams (found in people with asthma who are sensitive to MSG)
  • Swelling of different areas of the body
  • In severe cases, MSG may cause paralysis or death in people.

How can you prevent a MSG allergic reaction?

The only way to prevent the side effects of MSG is to completely remove it from your diet. However, this is often easier said than done since MSG goes by several different names on various food labels. Since the FDA permits this, if you are sensitive to MSG, make a note of the following alternate names used and steer clear of them:

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Yeast Food
  • Sodium or Calcium Caseinate
  • Hydrolyzed Protein
  • Gelatin
  • Ajinomoto
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Yeast Extract
  • Textured Protein
  • Monopotassium Glutamate
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Glutamic Acid
Apart from this, MSG may also be created during the processing of the following products. These should be avoided as well:
  • Stock cubes
  • Canned broths
  • Whey protein
  • Malt extract
  • Maltodextrin
  • Soy sauce
  • Fermented foods
  • Ultra pasteurized foods
  • Foods that are labeled protein-fortified or enzyme-modified
  • Soft drinks
  • Drink concentrates
  • Sports drinks
  • Candy and chewing gum
Even though health institutions and agencies all over the country continue to fight for the prohibition of MSG usage, there is no much progress on banning its use. This leaves consumers with no option but to educate themselves about the risks of MSG and prevent any further harm.

References:

  1. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/msg.htm
  2. www.umm.edu/ency/article/001126.htm#ixzz1yyiu8Z1j

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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