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Monosodium Glutamate/MSG: The Topic


Fat Guy
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I don't at all doubt that you have nasty headaches.

but a. I don't see what the connection is between sulfites and glutamates is that you see.

b. Trader Joe's doesn't add MSG to anything.

so, the fact that you got a nasty headache from a non-glutamate-heavy foodstuff indicates that such headaches are not necessarily indicative of being caused by glutamates.

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I'd be interested to see some actual numerical values of glutamates present certain foods and the amount of glutamate in say, a teaspoon of crystallized msg.

Me too. That's a key piece of info. And one that is getting over looked in this discussion.

Soysauce may be "high" in glutamates, but soysauce is still >95% water (v/v).

A tsp of msg is all msg.

I've tasted it neat. It tasted "like meat", was the best description I could come up with. Now I know the term "umami".

Fads and misunderstandings occur. Many people get fashed about salt intake, when only some are susceptible to it. If your Dr has linked your high blood pressure to dietary salt intake, the fact that I eat 10x as much sodium as you and have lower than normal bloodpressure is not relevant. Your biochemistry is different than mine.

Ditto MSG. It wouldnt surprise me at all if some people have a threshhold level below which they have no reaction and above which they have a reaction to it. It also wouldnt surprise me if many other people dont have this reaction, but claim to or think they do.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Hi there, im a newbie here, anyway...there was a time when i started cooking, i didn't know how to use MSG, i was cooking something back then and i find that MSG taste better than salt, so laced the dish with lots of it, it tasted...i don't know...funny? and my head started spinning, so i had to blow.

My mother asked me what happened to me then i explained to her the situation, she said that i was stupid for using too much of MSG because you could actually get sick from it and some people are allerigic to it. After that i learned my lesson and i still use it but sparingly, just a pinch goes a long way. :biggrin:

When i was in culinary school the chefs didn't want any of us touching MSG, they say it's wrong, they say if you use it you're a lousy cook and you might as well be a shoemaker of some sort. Being called a shoemaker hurts. But when i started working, in restaurants, or hotels, the chefs there don't mind using it, well it does give an extra boost of flavor to food.

A little bit of it will do just fine. :biggrin:

Cooking is like a blank piece of paper, anything can happen.
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Well, since I read the ingredient listing on the bag and it was listed, then I would have to respectfully disagree. However, it was about a year ago so maybe they no longer use it. Next time I am there, I will see if they still have it and check again.

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Ever since reading Steingarten's thoughts on MSG a few years back, I have contended that anti-MSG rhetoric is just xenophobia. As time goes by, though, I find there's more at stake here. It's not just xenophobia, it's puritanical xenophobia.

MSG is pleasure. The high levels of glutamates in human breast milk reveal that we're hardwired to get off on this stuff from the very get go. MSG is part of the reason why our eyes roll into the back of our head when consuming a phenomenal cut of beef. It's part of the reason why pizza is listed as the favorite high school yearbook food for just about every senior in the continental U.S. It's the sole reason why Doritos makes millions of dollars every year. We don't just like these glutamate rich foods, we LOVE them. Because of our puritanical beginnings, this nation has always had issues with pleasure. If it feels good, it must be bad. This is no different.

MSG touches on both our fear of pleasure and our fear of foreign things. Puritanical xenophobia...

With phantom fears such as these, psychosomatic symptoms are not far behind.

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  • 4 years later...

I've seen some conflicting reports. My boyfriend claims he is slightly "allergic" to MSG and have always wondered if it was a myth. As far as I can tell, it is. This site cites 3 different published scientific journals/studies which say that MSG allergies are a myth. My question is, are there any recent scientific studies that claim it isn't a myth?

I guess I could do my own study, and use a slight amount in some in his food and see if he complains, but that'd be evil. ;) Anyone have any more info on this?

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I've always wondered about this. Whilst I would not rely on such anecdotal evidence, my Mum can always tell if food has MSG in it because she gets irritated skin and will be scratching her arms for hours afterwards! Not sure that this is an actual allergic reaction or just an irritation, but it certainly seems to be some kind of reaction.

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There are people who are sensitive to glutamate, whether this is in the form of MSG or "natural".

I saw an interesting TV programme on food additives recently where people who claimed were sensitive to MSG were given an Italian meal full of "natural" glutamtes like parmesan cheese, tomatoes, etc. They displayed the same symptoms as when they had consumed MSG.

Just to say that MSG is not the "big evil" some people make it ou to be.

Best Wishes,

Chee Fai.

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Anecdotal info:

I should preface this by saying that I can eat everything pretty much. Hotter than Hades doesn't faze me. All nuts, all grains, whatever are fine. Plus I do not get headaches and never have.

Years ago we were dining at our favorite Toronto Chinese Restaurant, starting with the Hot & Sour Soup. Soon it dawned on me that my head was being crushed inwardly as if a circular vise were being tightened. It became so bad that I thought I would go mad. Although it was pouring like mad outside, I ran outside and stood in the pouring rain until I could breathe normally. DH, Ed, was fine.

What else could that be except for the MSG? They must have made a mis-measurement that day. Never ate soup there again.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Darienne, I think that's the sort of logic -- deeply felt but flawed -- that gets us into trouble, whether it be MSG, "food poisoning," you name it. There could be any number of other things that caused that reaction, and not all of them food-borne. Maybe it was something in the HVAC system, or a perfume at the next table. Maybe it was something that was in your body before you walked into the place related to sinus pressure. There's no way to know.

But, because people have already tagged MSG having this effect, and because people are convinced that Chinese restaurants use more MSG than other restaurants -- and having been in the storage rooms of lots of restaurants, I assure you that it's used in many other places -- well, that's the conclusion that people reach.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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At least I can say in my defense that my deeply flawed logic was post-soup. I didn't know that they put it into soup (and most everything else), so it could not have been any kind of placebo effect at work.

I am not about to do any double-blind studies on the subject.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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As you might no doubt suspect, I know very little about glutamates: monosodium, disodium, calcium, free, whatever they are. I did google the word and the one article I skimmed through was very interesting and I shall have to find out more about these glutamates.

I have never had a reaction like that dramatic one in Chinatown since and I may well be totally mistaken about its source as you pointed out.

The list of foods containing glutamates is very lengthy and we do eat corn chips a lot and french fries sometimes. We also eat some sausage meat although not much. I'm making my own chorizo now. We don't eat much pre-prepared food, no soy products except for the fermented ones, no cold cuts, canned soups, etc.

And I won't touch Aspartame. I suddenly became epileptic at the ripe old age of 56 after a few years of taking in a LOT of aspartame...but then as you note...it could have been anything and we'll never know. According to some experts...epilepsy can be a result of Aspartame, along with about 96 other ailments, including death.

Maybe it was being sprayed repeatedly, including in the face, with DDT as a youngster. Life is, according to my youngest, a crap shoot.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Maybe it was being sprayed repeatedly, including in the face, with DDT as a youngster. Life is, according to my youngest, a crap shoot.

Actually, you can supposedly eat DDT by the spoonful with no harmful effects (though I am in no way suggesting that one should).

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Two major forces drive MSG fears. Xenophobia and puritanism. Historically, xenophobia was the bigger player. The Chinese restaurateur has always been fiercely stigmatized/marginalized, all the way back to their incredibly humble beginnings in mining camps in the old west. This stigma runs deep. Even today, when Chinese restaurants are brought up, people still joke about being surreptitiously fed dog and cat. The MSG 'syndrome' is just another facet of this malevolence. Throughout the last 50 years, a person may have gorged themselves with glutamate rich foods like tomatoes and cheese to no ill effect, but the Chinese restaurant meal was vilified because of it's (at the time) exotic and foreign perception.

These days, thankfully, Chinese restaurant food is as American as apple pie. Goodbye (for the most part) xenophobia and hello, again, puritanical guilt and issues with pleasure.

Quick, what's your favorite food? Ten bucks says that you just pictured something with glutamates. Open up an American high school yearbook and you will see a steady chorus of 'favorite food: pizza.' We don't just like umami, for those that approach food without hangups, we worship it. It's a huge part of the framework of mouthwatering foods that make us roll our eyes in the back of our head in semi-orgasmic bliss. Why wouldn't the puritanically influenced feel threatened by something so powerful? If it feels good, it must be bad.

Look at the kind of verbiage you see with anti-MSG rhetoric. MSG isn't just bad for you, it's satanic. You're killing puppies by eating MSG. You're stealing from your grandmother. This hatred is nothing new. If you swap out MSG with alcohol, the vitriol reads a lot like a pre-prohibition temperance speech. The puritans have been fighting pleasure since washing up on these shores, and, if we let them, they'll be fighting it on board the starship enterprise. They live to rain on your parade.

Puritanical MSG enmity also ties in with the new religion- environmentalism. While global warming 'sinners' are busy buying carbon credits to assuage their gaian guilt, any food with a scientific sounding name can be demonized as being 'unnatural.' Forget the fact that glutamates are perfectly natural (and even synthesized in our own bodies), for the neo-hippy putting on their pious earth revering visage, processed food is the new devil.

Can you have too much of a good thing? Of course. They can keep creating cooler and cooler Dorito's by amping up the MSG from now until the cows come home, but it's not going to make them any tastier. It's an enhancer- it can't create deliciousness if there's nothing present to enhance. It's also, I think, important to look at the quantities of glutamates that make the foods we love so delicious and try to work within those parameters when doling out the MSG ourselves. Much like salt, there's a pretty fine line between just enough and too much. Reach for the smidgeon/pinch/dash measuring spoons, not the 1/4 teaspoon and up implements.

Bottom line- Enjoy food. Enjoy life. And if anyone tells you that something is bad, please, take it with a huge grain of salt. And a smaller grain of msg :biggrin:

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I saw an episode of Food Detectives where they debunked the whole "MSG is bad for you" thing. They grabbed a room full of people, split it in half and gave one half of the room Chinese food with MSG and the other half without. There were a handful of people who claimed that they had headaches and were swollen after eating. Of course these were the people who DIDN'T eat the food that was laced with MSG. Go figure.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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A good (and delicious) test for glutamate sensitivity would be to eat a hunk of parmesan cheese. It has the highest known concentration of natural glutamate.

My casual suspicion is that "Chinese restaurant syndrom" is a reaction to consuming a week's worth of salt at one sitting.

Notes from the underbelly

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Some food for thought... note that I DID NOT cherry pick these, they are the most relevant studies I could find.

Etiology of hypersensitivity reactions following Chinese or Indonesian meals].

Abstract

Various authors have criticised or confirmed the relation between adverse reactions to Chinese food ('The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome') and the use of monosodium glutamate (Vetsin). In our experience the occurrence of urticaria, angioedema or anaphylaxis after meals in Chinese or Indonesian restaurants is more often due to IgE-mediated Type I food allergy, caused by consumption of shrimp, peanut or spices, in particular those of the parsley family (e.g. coriander). A detailed description of four such cases is presented.

Monosodium L-glutamate: a double-blind study and review.

Tarasoff L, Kelly MF.

Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Business & Technology, University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia.

Comment in:

* Food Chem Toxicol. 1995 Jan;33(1):69-78.

Abstract

71 healthy subjects were treated with placebos and monosodium L-glutamate (MSG) doses of 1.5, 3.0 and 3.15 g/person, which represented a body mass-adjusted dose range of 0.015-0.07 g/kg body weight before a standardized breakfast over 5 days. The study used a rigorous randomized double-blind crossover design that controlled for subjects who had MSG after-tastes. Capsules and specially formulated drinks were used as vehicles for placebo and MSG treatments. Subjects mostly had no responses to placebo (86%) and MSG (85%) treatments. Sensations, previously attributed to MSG, did not occur at a significantly higher rate than did those elicited by placebo treatment. A significant (P < 0.05) negative correlation between MSG dose and after-effects was found. The profound effect of food in negating the effects of large MSG doses was demonstrated. The common practice of extrapolating food-free experimental results to 'in use' situations was called into question. An exhaustive review of previous methodologies identified the strong taste of MSG as the factor invalidating most 'blind' and 'double-blind' claims by previous researchers. The present study led to the conclusion that 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' is an anecdote applied to a variety of postprandial illnesses; rigorous and realistic scientific evidence linking the syndrome to MSG could not be found.

Glutamate. Its applications in food and contribution to health.

Jinap S, Hajeb P.

Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia. jinap@food.upm.edu.my <jinap@food.upm.edu.my>

Abstract

This article reviews application of glutamate in food and its benefits and role as one of the common food ingredients used. Monosodium glutamate is one of the most abundant naturally occurring amino acids which frequently added as a flavor enhancer. It produced a unique taste that cannot be provided by other basic taste (saltiness, sourness, sweetness and bitterness), referred to as a fifth taste (umami). Glutamate serves some functions in the body as well, serving as an energy source for certain tissues and as a substrate for glutathione synthesis. Glutamate has the potential to enhance food intake in older individuals and dietary free glutamate evoked a visceral sensation from the stomach, intestine and portal vein. Small quantities of glutamate used in combination with a reduced amount of table salt during food preparation allow for far less salt to be used during and after cooking. Because glutamate is one of the most intensely studied food ingredients in the food supply and has been found safe, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization placed it in the safest category for food additives. Despite a widespread belief that glutamate can elicit asthma, migraine headache and Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS), there are no consistent clinical data to support this claim. In addition, findings from the literature indicate that there is no consistent evidence to suggest that individuals may be uniquely sensitive to glutamate.

Monosodium glutamate 'allergy': menace or myth?

Williams AN, Woessner KM.

Division of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Scripps Clinic, San Diego, CA 92130, USA. a.williams33@yahoo.com

Abstract

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a salt form of a non-essential amino acid commonly used as a food additive for its unique flavour enhancing qualities. Since the first description of the 'Monosodium glutamate symptom complex', originally described in 1968 as the 'Chinese restaurant syndrome', a number of anecdotal reports and small clinical studies of variable quality have attributed a variety of symptoms to the dietary ingestion of MSG. Descriptions of MSG-induced asthma, urticaria, angio-oedema, and rhinitis have prompted some to suggest that MSG should be an aetiologic consideration in patients presenting with these conditions. This review prevents a critical review of the available literature related to the possible role of MSG in the so-called 'Chinese restaurant syndrome' and in eliciting asthmatic bronchospasm, urticaria, angio-oedema, and rhinitis. Despite concerns raised by early reports, decades of research have failed to demonstrate a clear and consistent relationship between MSG ingestion and the development of these conditions.

Reconsidering the effects of monosodium glutamate: a literature review.

Freeman M.

OhioHealth, Columbus, Ohio, USA. freeman.224@osu.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE: This article reviews the literature from the past 40 years of research related to monosodium glutamate (MSG) and its ability to trigger a migraine headache, induce an asthma exacerbation, or evoke a constellation of symptoms described as the "Chinese restaurant syndrome."

DATA SOURCES: Literature retrieved by a search using PubMed, Medline, Lexis-Nexus, and Infotrac to review articles from the past 40 years.

CONCLUSIONS: MSG has a widespread reputation for eliciting a variety of symptoms, ranging from headache to dry mouth to flushing. Since the first report of the so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome 40 years ago, clinical trials have failed to identify a consistent relationship between the consumption of MSG and the constellation of symptoms that comprise the syndrome. Furthermore, MSG has been described as a trigger for asthma and migraine headache exacerbations, but there are no consistent data to support this relationship. Although there have been reports of an MSG-sensitive subset of the population, this has not been demonstrated in placebo-controlled trials.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Despite a widespread belief that MSG can elicit a headache, among other symptoms, there are no consistent clinical data to support this claim. Findings from the literature indicate that there is no consistent evidence to suggest that individuals may be uniquely sensitive to MSG. Nurse practitioners should therefore concentrate their efforts on advising patients of the nutritional pitfalls of some Chinese restaurant meals and to seek more consistently documented etiologies for symptoms such as headache, xerostomia, or flushing.

Multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multiple-challenge evaluation of reported reactions to monosodium glutamate.

Geha RS, Beiser A, Ren C, Patterson R, Greenberger PA, Grammer LC, Ditto AM, Harris KE, Shaughnessy MA, Yarnold PR, Corren J, Saxon A.

Division of Immunology, Children Hospital and Department of Pediatrics, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The frequency of reactions reported to occur after the consumption of monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the subject of controversy.

OBJECTIVE: We conducted a multicenter, multiphase, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with a crossover design to evaluate reactions reportedly caused by MSG.

METHODS: In 3 of 4 protocols (A, B, and C), MSG was administered without food. A positive response was scored if the subject reported 2 or more symptoms from a list of 10 symptoms reported to occur after ingestion of MSG-containing foods within 2 hours. In protocol A 130 self-selected reportedly MSG-reactive volunteers were challenged with 5 g of MSG and with placebo on separate days (days 1 and 2). Of the 86 subjects who reacted to MSG, placebo, or both in protocol A, 69 completed protocol B to determine whether the response was consistent and dose dependent. To further examine the consistency and reproducibility of reactions to MSG, 12 of the 19 subjects who responded to 5 g of MSG but not to placebo in both protocols A and B were given, in protocol C, 2 challenges, each consisting of 5 g of MSG versus placebo.

RESULTS: Of 130 subjects in protocol A, 50 (38. 5%) responded to MSG only, 17 (13.1%) responded to placebo only (P <. 05), and 19 (14.6%) responded to both. Challenge with increasing doses of MSG in protocol B was associated with increased response rates. Only half (n = 19) of 37 subjects who reacted to 5 g of MSG but not placebo in protocol A reacted similarly in protocol B, suggesting inconsistency in the response. Two of the 19 subjects responded in both challenges to MSG but not placebo in protocol C; however, their symptoms were not reproducible in protocols A through C. These 2 subjects were challenged in protocol D 3 times with placebo and 3 times with 5 g of MSG in the presence of food. Both responded to only one of the MSG challenges in protocol D.

CONCLUSION: The results suggest that large doses of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in individuals who believe that they react adversely to MSG. However, neither persistent nor serious effects from MSG ingestion are observed, and the responses were not consistent on retesting.

Review of alleged reaction to monosodium glutamate and outcome of a multicenter double-blind placebo-controlled study.

Geha RS, Beiser A, Ren C, Patterson R, Greenberger PA, Grammer LC, Ditto AM, Harris KE, Shaughnessy MA, Yarnold PR, Corren J, Saxon A.

Division of Immunology, Children's Hospital and Department of Pediatrics, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA.

Abstract

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has a long history of use in foods as a flavor enhancer. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has classified MSG as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Nevertheless, there is an ongoing debate exists concerning whether MSG causes any of the alleged reactions. A complex of symptoms after ingestion of a Chinese meal was first described in 1968. MSG was suggested to trigger these symptoms, which were referred to collectively as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. Numerous reports, most of them anecdotal, were published after the original observation. Since then, clinical studies have been performed by many groups, with varying degrees of rigor in experimental design ranging from uncontrolled open challenges to double-blind, placebo controlled (DBPC) studies. Challenges in subjects who reported adverse reactions to MSG have included relatively few subjects and have failed to show significant reactions to MSG. Results of surveys and of clinical challenges with MSG in the general population reveal no evidence of untoward effects. We recently conducted a multicenter DBPC challenge study in 130 subjects (the largest to date) to analyze the response of subjects who report symptoms from ingesting MSG. The results suggest that large doses of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in individuals who believe that they react adversely to MSG. However, the frequency of the responses was low and the responses reported were inconsistent and were not reproducible. The responses were not observed when MSG was given with food.

The safety evaluation of monosodium glutamate.

Walker R, Lupien JR.

School of Biological Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 5XH, Surrey, UK and. Food and Nutrition Division, FAO, 00100 Roma, Italy.

Abstract

L-Glutamic acid and its ammonium, calcium, monosodium and potassium salts were evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in 1988. The Committee noted that intestinal and hepatic metabolism results in elevation of levels in systemic circulation only after extremely high doses given by gavage (>30mg/kg body weight). Ingestion of monosodium glutamate (MSG) was not associated with elevated levels in maternal milk, and glutamate did not readily pass the placental barrier. Human infants metabolized glutamate similarly to adults. 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. Attention was paid to central nervous system lesions produced in several species after parenteral administration of MSG or as a consequence of very high doses by gavage. Comparative studies indicated that the neonatal mouse was most sensitive to neuronal injury; older animals and other species (including primates) were less so. Blood levels of glutamate associated with lesions of the hypothalamus in the neonatal mouse were not approached in humans even after bolus doses of 10 g MSG in drinking water. Because human studies failed to confirm an involvement of MSG in "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" or other idiosyncratic intolerance, the JECFA allocated an "acceptable daily intake (ADI) not specified" to glutamic acid and its salts. No additional risk to infants was indicated. The Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) of the European Commission reached a similar evaluation in 1991. The conclusions of a subsequent review by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) did not discount the existence of a sensitive subpopulation but otherwise concurred with the safety evaluation of JECFA and the SCF.

The monosodium glutamate symptom complex: assessment in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study.

Yang WH, Drouin MA, Herbert M, Mao Y, Karsh J.

Department of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Considerable debate swirls about the validity of symptoms described by many people after ingestion of monosodium glutamate (MSG), and the question has remained unresolved largely because of a paucity of well-designed challenge studies.

METHODS: We conducted oral challenge studies in self-identified MSG-sensitive subjects to determine whether they had a statistically significant difference in the incidence of their specific symptoms after ingestion of MSG compared with placebo. First, 5 gm MSG or placebo was administered in random sequence in a double-blind fashion. Subjects who reacted only to a single test agent then underwent rechallenge in random sequence in a double-blind fashion with placebo and 1.25, 2.5, and 5 gm MSG. A positive response to challenge was defined as the reproduction of > of 2 of the specific symptoms in a subject ascertained on prechallenge interview.

RESULTS: Sixty-one subjects entered the study. On initial challenge, 18 (29.5%) responded to neither MSG nor placebo, 6 (9.8%) to both, 15 (24.6%) to placebo, and 22 (36.1%) to MSG (p = 0.324). Total and average severity of symptoms after ingestion of MSG (374 and 80) were greater than respective values after placebo ingestion (232 and 56; p = 0.026 and 0.018, respectively). Rechallenge revealed an apparent threshold dose for reactivity of 2.5 gm MSG. Headache (p < 0.023), muscle tightness (p < 0.004), numbness/tingling (p < 0.007), general weakness (p < 0.040), and flushing (p < 0.016) occurred more frequently after MSG than placebo ingestion.

CONCLUSIONS: Oral challenge with MSG reproduced symptoms in alleged sensitive persons. The mechanism of the reaction remains unknown, but symptom characteristics do not support an IgE-mediated mechanism. According to Food and Drug Administration recommendations, the symptoms, originally called the Chinese restaurant syndrome, are better referred to as the MSG symptom complex.

Monosodium L-glutamate: a double-blind study and review.

Tarasoff L, Kelly MF.

Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Business & Technology, University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia.

Comment in:

* Food Chem Toxicol. 1995 Jan;33(1):69-78.

Abstract

71 healthy subjects were treated with placebos and monosodium L-glutamate (MSG) doses of 1.5, 3.0 and 3.15 g/person, which represented a body mass-adjusted dose range of 0.015-0.07 g/kg body weight before a standardized breakfast over 5 days. The study used a rigorous randomized double-blind crossover design that controlled for subjects who had MSG after-tastes. Capsules and specially formulated drinks were used as vehicles for placebo and MSG treatments. Subjects mostly had no responses to placebo (86%) and MSG (85%) treatments. Sensations, previously attributed to MSG, did not occur at a significantly higher rate than did those elicited by placebo treatment. A significant (P < 0.05) negative correlation between MSG dose and after-effects was found. The profound effect of food in negating the effects of large MSG doses was demonstrated. The common practice of extrapolating food-free experimental results to 'in use' situations was called into question. An exhaustive review of previous methodologies identified the strong taste of MSG as the factor invalidating most 'blind' and 'double-blind' claims by previous researchers. The present study led to the conclusion that 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' is an anecdote applied to a variety of postprandial illnesses; rigorous and realistic scientific evidence linking the syndrome to MSG could not be found.

Does monosodium glutamate cause flushing (or merely "glutamania")?

Wilkin JK.

Abstract

Monosodium glutamate is widely regarded as the provocative agent in the "Chinese restaurant syndrome," of which flushing is regarded as part of the reaction. Six subjects were monitored by laser Doppler velocimetry for changes in facial cutaneous blood flow during challenge with monosodium glutamate and its cyclization product, pyroglutamate. Additionally, records of patients challenged with monosodium glutamate in the laboratory were reviewed. No flushing was provoked among the twenty-four people tested, eighteen of whom gave a positive history of Chinese restaurant syndrome flushing. These results indicate that monosodium glutamate-provoked flushing, if it exists at all, must be rare. Monosodium glutamate and its cyclization product, pyroglutamate, may provoke edema and associated symptoms.

The Chinese restaurant syndrome: an anecdote revisited.

Kenney RA.

Abstract

The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome arose from an anecdote of discomfort experienced after eating Chinese cuisine. Monosodium glutamate has been implicated as the causative agent. Work over the past 17 years has consistently failed to reveal any objective sign accompanying the transient sensations that some individuals experience after the experimental ingestion of monosodium glutamate and it is questionable whether the term 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' has any validity. When some common food materials are used in the same experimental setting, similar symptoms can be produced in a limited number of people. Double-blind testing of individuals who identify themselves as suffering the 'syndrome' has failed to confirm the role of monosodium glutamate as the provocative agent.

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You don't even have to look at parmesan and tomato, it's conclusive that MSG sensitivities are overblown because MSG doesn't only appear in Chinese restaurants anymore. Take Minor's Chicken Base for example. Walk into any average mid priced western style restaurant in the country and there's a 50/50 chance that there's a bucket of Minor's Chicken Base hiding somewhere. Look at the ingredient list, the 4th ingredient listed is MSG, ahead of even sugar. Anything made with Minor's Chicken Base is going to have even more MSG in it than the average mid priced Chinese restaurant and yet, because it's hidden away in the kitchen, people mysteriously don't complain about headaches. If you're complaining about getting headaches only from Chinese food, then you definitively don't have a MSG sensitivity simply because MSG appears equally as often outside of Chinese food as in.

PS: I am a guy.

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About MSG, but from a completely different angle:

I was totally ignorant of MSG when I moved to India a few years back (I'm since back in the US).

My favorite (absolutely) chinese restaurant was a little hole in the wall tucked away in a Bangalore Neighborhood (Xian by Ulsoor if you ever make it to B'Lore). Absolutely amazing. I still dream about their food.

One day we took another couple there, and the man said 'no msg' when ordering. Since we eat family style, it was no MSG in everything. I had no idea what he was talking about (ignored it, really) until the food came and was quite bland in every area.

We made it a point to not eat there with them again! Since then, I've become of the opinion that MSG is a gift from God to make Chinese food taste 'more wonderful-er'. I've even got a package of it in my pantry right now.

My $0.02,

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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I hear many people say that they are allergic or sensitive to MSG. Most of the complaints seem to be extreme thirst (especially after eating in a Chinese restaurant), but some people describe a rash or an asthma attack.

When you think about it, MSG is just a salt of an amino acid - monosodium glutamate. In other words, it is a naturally occurring product. Or put another way - your stomach digests proteins to produce glutamate. Some time in our evolution, there was enough selective pressure for us to evolve a specialized receptor for MSG - the "umami" taste receptors in the tongue.

As such, I find it difficult to accept that it is possible to be allergic to MSG. I can accept that people would feel thirsty if they take too much Sodium. Eating too much salt is definitely bad for your health (so I would agree with the recommendation that people don't take too much MSG). However, glutamate ... ?

I suspect that it is the "chemical sounding" name of MSG, and the "food additive" aspect of it, and not to mention the fact that it comes in little clear granules that psychologically turns people off. It's the good old placebo effect at play here - some nasty chemical food additive which are used in dodgy Chinese restaurants can't be good, right?

Is there any evidence that MSG can cause allergic reactions?

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw
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