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Truth About MSG


It is the seasoning that people love to hate. For years, MSG has been vilified and maligned. It has been accused of causing Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, high blood pressure, cancer and even of killing dogs. But is it truly possible that one single product which has been used globally for 100 years, made from nature and made like so many other food products, can be responsible for all of these? Let us take a look at the TRUTH.

RUMOR : MSG can cause cancer.

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The truth is MSG does NOT cause cancer.

Monosodium glutamate is quite simply glutamate, the most common amino acid, in a sodium salt form. Neither glutamate nor sodium has any carcinogenic properties.

Further, despite many researches, there is still no scientific evidence or clinical proof to support the false claim that MSG causes cancer.

On the contrary, the JECFA toxicological evaluation of certain food additives concludes, “conventional toxicity studies using dietary administration of MSG in several species did not reveal any specific toxic or carcinogenic effects, nor were there any adverse outcomes in reproduction and teratology studies.”

So where did this rumor come from?

This rumor seems to have been based on a misinterpretation and careless citing of a non-clinical study. The study stated that when certain amino acids were heated to 350 – 500ºC or 660 – 900ºF, certain cancer causing compounds could be formed. These findings were and are not relevant in any way to MSG because the dietary intake of glutamate does not require temperatures to this extreme and the normal cooking temperatures are generally below 250ºC.

RUMOR : MSG causes Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS)

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The truth is MSG is NOT responsible for CRS.

In 2000, Raif Salim Geha, a known American immunologist, together with colleagues from Harvard University, Boston University of Public Health, Northwestern University and University of California conducted the largest ever multicenter double-blind placebo controlled study on CRS. They concluded “Neither persistent nor serious effects from MSG were observed, and the responses were not consistent on retesting.”

So where did this rumor come from?

In 1968, an American doctor wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine claiming that he experienced symptoms of numbness at the back of the neck and a feeling of pressure in the face and upper chest muscles which he coined as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”. Without any study or proof, he suggested this was caused by MSG which was used widely in Chinese restaurants.

RUMOR : Some people are allergic to MSG.

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The truth is MSG is NOT an allergen.

A food which causes an allergic reaction is called a food allergen. For anything to be classified as an allergen, the food must contain protein. Monosodium Glutamate is actually a sodium salt form of a glutamic acid or glutamate which is one of the most common amino acids. Although glutamate is an amino acid and can be found in protein, the glutamate of MSG is a “free” glutamate which means it is not linked to any other molecule and therefore cannot be a protein.

Further, many people believe that they have reactions from MSG, but if they eat ripe tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, cheese, seaweed, meats, and seafood, not to mention cubes, patis, or toyo, they should also feel a reaction from those foods because these foods all have high amounts of “free” glutamate.

So where did this rumor come from?

Because of the widespread allegations that MSG cause various reactions (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome),
most people started to believe that reactions they
have to various food is a reaction that is brought about by MSG.

RUMOR : MSG kills dogs.

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The truth is MSG does NOT kill dogs.

In 1995, two professors from the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of the Philippines at Los Baños published results of a study they had conducted which involved the feeding of MSG to a group of 15 dogs over a period of 4 months. The dosage was continuously varied over time.

The dogs refused to die. In fact, most of the dogs had very hearty appetites and remained healthy. And they enjoyed their delicious meals!

Further, most dog foods often contain MSG.

So where did this rumor come from?

This rumor most likely started because some people had supposedly heard that criminals were feeding guard dogs some food laced with MSG in order to incapacitate them. However, this was most likely a white crystalline toxic substance which resembled MSG.

RUMOR : MSG causes High Blood Pressure.

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The truth is MSG does NOT cause High Blood Pressure.

The United Nations Joint (Food and Agriculture Organization / World Health Organization) Expert Committee on Food Additives concluded that MSG was not only safe, but that it was so safe, there was no need to declare any acceptable daily intake limit.

Consider that common table salt has an Acceptable Daily Intake Limit which is specified because it has been clinically proven to be a related cause of high blood pressure. However, MSG contains only 30% of the amount of sodium found in table salt, and is used at far lower levels to achieve the same flavor enhancement in food.
So in fact, replacing salt with MSG can actually help to reduce sodium intake reducing the risk of high blood pressure.

So where did this rumor come from?

This most likely started because of the fact that the product name includes the word sodium. Therefore, assumptions were made that the intake of MSG could also cause high blood pressure.

RUMOR : MSG is bad for you.

The truth is MSG is not only safe, but can aid in the vital functioning of your body.

Glutamate is the primary source of energy for the intestines and dietary glutamate is instantly utilized by the intestines. In fact, the human body actually produces about 50 grams of glutamate daily in the major organs like the brain, heart, kidney and liver. Further recent research has revealed that free glutamate also triggers the digestive process for proteins as soon as Umami, the 5th basic taste is recognized by the brain.

Moreover, numerous studies have confirmed that the glutamate from MSG is identical to the glutamate from foods. Pure MSG contains the same glutamate found in different food like tomatoes, cheeses, meats and various vegetables – the same glutamate that brings Umami taste to food, the same glutamate that triggers the digestion of protein and the same glutamate that aids in proper metabolism for the intestines.

So where did this rumor come from?

This rumor is most likely a resulting belief of the collective summation of all the false rumors that people have heard from various opinionated sources. But facts are facts, and the fact is that MSG has been proven safe time and again.

THE TRUTH ABOUT MSG

Due to the common misconceptions, MSG has been thoroughly studied by various independent international organizations in clinical and scientific studies which have all come to the same conclusion. MSG has been proven to be safe time and again.

1980 : The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology as commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Conclusion: MSG is Safe
1987 :United Nations’ Joint [Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO)] Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)

Conclusion: MSG is Safe
Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) limit not specified
1991 : European Communities Scientific Committee for Food (SCF)

Conclusion: MSG is Safe
Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) limit not specified
1992 : American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs

Conclusion: MSG is Safe
1995 : Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2nd Review as commissioned by the U.S. F.D.A.)

Conclusion: MSG is Safe

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