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Monosodium Glutamate/MSG: The Topic


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I'd be interested in knowing how many people who are affected by MSG also get migraines.

Actually, when I get migraines, a few Doritos will help. I always assumed it was the sodium or MSG content. Along with a little caffeine.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Actually, when I get migraines, a few Doritos will help.  I always assumed it was the sodium or MSG content.  Along with a little caffeine.

I used to drink a pot of coffee during the aura stage to lessen the impact of the headache. My theory was that the vasoconstricting properties of the caffeine would mitigate the dilation phase of the headache. Perhaps MSG has similar properties?

Now, I just take drugs.

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I think MSG symptoms are only in peoples head. MSG is used in so many can goods.

Canned pastas (chef boyardee) and canned soups contain MSG and I've haven't heard of anyone complaining (at least to my knowledge) about MSG headaches after consuming those products.

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I realize that there may be many who for whatever reason disagree with my opinion about ,"MSG" and those who feel that they suffer from allergies or whatever from eating anything that contains, "MSG".

We were engaged in a private study by a client who wanted to be sure about the "MSG" used in foods, either natural or added to the items being served at homes or restaurants.

What was the most convincing reason toward our accepting this assignment was that they were almost naturally available in some context in everyones general diet. Several of my staff were amazed that it was a natural ingredient in larger them commercially used amounts in the human womans nursing breast milk provided to babies, that led us in our inquiries to ask if those alleging effects had been nursed as babies. The majority of them had in fact been nurtured by MSG high Mothers Milk.

Our surveys taking place over several years were done in Asia, Europe, Canada and the United States. We choose Various Ethnic Restaurants, Fast Food, University Dining Halls. Hospitals and Restaurants Popular in every area.

We had free access to all Kitchens, Preparation, Receiving and anyplace that had anything to do with all Food Prep and Service. Even Vegetarian, Vegan and Organic Food places were included. We kept logs, taped responses and kept our own counsel except to the client about the results.

After the testing was completed, covering 5,000 plus interviews to consumers, servers, cooks and everyone having anything to do with the operations our conclusions showed.

There was NO indication that anyone we surveyed had a actual allergic or physical effect when eating foods that contained or had any form of "MSG" added.

What seemed to be the most strange generally bewildering thing we noticed was that many of those who complained the most were regular users of sauce, condiments, flavorings and dishes that were enhanced by "MSG". This was especially noticeable in Asian and European Restaurants where condiments like, "Maggi" or "Soy Sauces" were consumed without I'll effects, especially after the consumers made sure to insist that no, "MSG" being added to or included with any dishes they ordered, such as Steamed Vegetable with Oyster Sauce or adding various "Hot Sauces" served on the side or left on Tables for seasoning. Many Cooks did not add any "MSG" to the dishes being served since they followed customers instructions they were complying. They weren't taking into consideration that many of the flavors or seasonings employed in the preparation of many foods as well as the "Mis en Plais" all may have been enhanced with. "MSG". Certainly the Dried Items, Norri Sea Weed, Cilantro, Parsley. Dried Watercress or Dried Scallops, Oyster Sauce and many other variables all have "MSG" yet some how it didn't effect the customers.

The one thing that did legitimately effect customers was that in some lower priced or poorly run Restaurants there was a excess of "MSG" applied to Soups, Broths and other dishes that invariably made the customers more thirsty so If it was in Bars and Lounges in Japan or Korea it increased consumption of beverages, in many places it certainly seemed to make customers drink more fluids.

It also seemed to have a similar effect of adding sodium to ones diet, even though not as bad as using to much salt, but it still was something to consider in low sodium diets. Have you ever read the labels and observed how many low sodium products contain enhancers with some sodium type product.

I'm sure that those who are effected with "MSG" in any form should pursue some form of controlled and supervised testing by those knowledgeable about how insidious this naturally occurring product is in our diets to attempt to find out what part of MSG or Amino Acids are the culprits, our survey was done objectively without any goal or interested party being involved in any way but it was not scientific only informative.

I concur that like salt, sugar, pepper or any other anything used in preparing foods it's best if done in moderation. The most often use of MSG was in those Restaurants who often weren't aware that "MSG" as a enhancer should not be used with foods that were being Salted or Sugared without taking into consideration that MSG, SALT or SUGAR must be very carefully used together.

We in fact recommended to Restaurants that used Salt before or just after platting for the Customers Service restrain from doing this in the future and allow customers to add the salt for their own taste. It seemed to clash with the finish if there was "MSG" used in the preparation, when immediately coming off the heat, but was complimentary to the taste after cooling slightly after being served.

Hope that this information was of some interest.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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If you're on a low salt diet for cardiac/blood pressure reasons, I'd think you'd want to avoid MSG the same way you avoid salt.

When I was in London in the mid 1970s, some hours after a Chinese meal, I became violently ill. I've had food poisoning a couple of times but nothing like this. The doc I saw the next morning questioned me about what I'd eaten, then diagnosed an MSG overdose. Said it was not uncommon among travelers from the US since some London Chinese cooks tended to use more MSG than we are used to in the States.

I took the doctor at his word. He gave me some stuff that tasted like modeling clay to take several times a day & advised me to drink lots of water.

This may not have been an MSG health hazard in any permanent sense, but I lost 2 precious days of an overseas vacation recuperating. The MSG OD, if that's truly what it was, really wiped me out. I was royally pissed.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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  • 2 months later...

Admin: Threads merged.

Ever since I can remember, I've had a strange allergic reaction to MSG that involves a sense of pressure on my face that starts a few minutes after I start eating; it feels strangely like a vice is slowly tightening around my head. Has anyone else experienced this odd reaction?

Now that I think about it, I'm not entirely sure its the MSG that is the culprit, although I've just assumed it was as I only got the feeling after eating at certain asian restaurants, and never after explicitly asking for no MSG.

edit: spelling

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The general concensus (which is not without vehement detractors) seems to be that there "MSG allergy" and "MSG syndrome" don't really exist -- or at least don't exist for the vast, vast majority of the population. It is worthy of note that many foods, such as aged parmigiano-reggiano, contain plenty of glutamate. One also wonders why the entire nation of China isn't awash with headaches and other symptoms associated with MSG in Western countries.

I suppose it is possible that there is some adulterant or impurity in certain brands of MSG used by Chinese restaurants that causes these symptoms. It is also possible that there are some other substances used in Chinese cookery that causes these symptoms. And it's possible that it's mostly psychosomatic.

--

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It is also possible that there are some other substances used in Chinese cookery that causes these symptoms.  And it's possible that it's mostly psychosomatic.

My hypothesis has always been that bad Chinese food is super-salty, and it's the salt that causes headaches. Of course, you don't hear people complain about headaches after eating a salty burger and fries, so maybe it's psychosomatic.

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I'd be the first one to accept that its just psychosomatic... but I can go years between experiencing any symptoms--enought time for me to forget about my "allergy" altogether--and then it hits without warning.

It's definitely not saltiness, either. I have been known to eat a whole jar of pickles in one sitting.

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I'd be the first one to accept that its just psychosomatic... but I can go years between experiencing any symptoms--enought time for me to forget about my "allergy" altogether--and then it hits without warning.

Could be five spice powder, could be Sichuan peppercorns, could be organisms growing on/in improperly stored ingredients, could be a certain kind of pepper, could be the oil they're using, etc.

--

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When I was a kid, whenever I ate anything, regardless of the type of food, with MSG, I would get the headache, dizziness, swollen feeling. My mom said it was the MSG and that she had the same thing and so did my grandma. When I was 18 I was diaganosed with migraines and one of the first things the Dr told me was to avoid all foods with MSG. If you are prone to migraines then chances are you are sensitive to MSG. It's not an allergy but a sensitivity and it can be quite serious. These days if I have a small amount of MSG in say a bag of chips or some other processed food, I will get a nasty headache. If I have chinese food that is loaded with MSG, within about 15 minutes I have a full blown migraine and half of my body is going numb.

I don't think there will ever really be an answer as to why only some people have this reaction and why only after ingesting a large amount of MSG as opposed to a small amount. But sensitivities to MSG are very common, and are known medically to occur and it can be quite serious. I know I kick myself if I eat it because I know what's going to happen. I know better but of course, if something looks soooo good, you're going to eat it anyway. Unfortunately, you can't avoid it, like most things.

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My mom said it was the MSG and that she had the same thing and so did my grandma.  When I was 18 I was diaganosed with migraines and one of the first things the Dr told me was to avoid all foods with MSG.    If you are prone to migraines then chances are you are sensitive to MSG. 

Ack!

My mother also experiences this sensitivity and is a migraine sufferer. I'm 20 and hoping that I was spared the migraine-prone gene... I hope this isn't a bellwether of things to come... :unsure:

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When I was a kid, whenever I ate anything, regardless of the type of food, with MSG, I would get the headache, dizziness, swollen feeling.  My mom said it was the MSG and that she had the same thing and so did my grandma.  When I was 18 I was diaganosed with migraines and one of the first things the Dr told me was to avoid all foods with MSG.    If you are prone to migraines then chances are you are sensitive to MSG.  It's not an allergy but a sensitivity and it can be quite serious.

Ditto for me. However, I should add that I also will get migraines if I eat too much sugar (talk about a sugar crash!) and also from drinking alcohol (not that it stops me...I just keep the meds handy!).

I do find that MSG is the least of my triggers though. I think I need to be particularly prone to getting a migraine at the time I eat it in order to actually trigger one.

An aside for slkinsey, aged cheeses are also documented migraine triggers.

Peppyre, be glad you managed to make it to 18 before being diagnosed. I had my first migraine at age 7. My daughter had her first one at age 6. :sad:

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Ok, I always thought the whole MSG allergy thing was crap. Until this semester...

I sat on several threshold panels during the course of the semester. I was not told ahead of time what I would be tasting, but had to sign a release form saying that I have no known food allergies, which I do not. The first time I did the panel, I experienced the oddest sensation...like my ears, feet and hands were really warm, and just, well, weird. As the sample was mostly sweet and umami, I did assume by the end (where the concentration was high enough that I could list it definitively as umami) that I was tasting MSG or a related compound. Even before I could taste it, though, I could feel it. It was MSG, BTW. And don't get me started on what nucleotides make me feel like. That was so bad I was crying. I finally emailed the woman that was the head of the experiment to ask her what the hell she'd made me taste. No matter what I did, I couldn't get the taste out of my mouth...for 2 days.

Anyway, the MSG doesn't make me feel awful or anything, and I won't blame it for all of societies ills but I can tell it's there (I'm guessing it's used in a lot of fast food...I have a similar response when eating it). I know glutamate is present in many foods, but I wonder if it's the fact that it's present in salt form that makes some people who are more sensitive to it react.

Gourmet Anarchy

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...I know glutamate is present in many foods...

From what I understand, MSG can legally be listed as "spices" on U.S. food labels so often you won't know if what you're eating does or doesn't contain it.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Chinese restaurants may not ADD any MSG to their dishes, but it is present in many of the ready made sauces. There is just as much in Japanese cooking, but they never get the bad mark.

The list of forms of MSG is quite long. An ingredient list may not have the letters MSG on it, but it exists in other forms.

Ann the list of foods that contain MSG is amazing. To avoid it completely, you have to make your own soup, and just about eat only untouched, unprocessed foods.

I don't have a reaction to it, but I have heard that those with low levels of B6 often have an MSG sensitivity.

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I think that the so called msg syndrome is comprised of a soupcon of mass hysteria, mixed with a bit of hypochondria blended with a dose of xenophobia. If people who profess to be allergic to msg were really allergic, they would have to abstain from 90% of all the savoury snacks and processed foods they would normally consume in a given day.

Just yesterday I got drawn into a discussion with a lady who cited all the "textbook" symptoms of an msg allergic reaction that she got after eating at a Chinese restaurant. She talked between mouthfuls of bbq flavoured potato chips. Ddohh!

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I have certainly experienced the symptoms associated with "MSG Syndrone" (not MSG Allergy BTW, "Allergy" is a specific term) after eating some foods, as a Pho in one paticular restuarant, but I don't experience it after eating glutamate high foods such as hard cheese, soy sauce, tomato and shellfish or MSG enhanced snacks.

Not sure what the deal is here. I assume that something is going on, but it may not be directly realted to pure MSG.

As for "The is no such thing as a reaction to MSG, otherwise most of China will be walking about with migranes", well the next time an Asian person says they are lactose intolerant, it would then be logical to say "No, that doesn't exist or it is in all your head, otherwise most Northern Europeans would be walking about with squirty bottoms". I don't think so.

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I think there is a big difference between glutamate being a potential migrane trigger, which seems quite reasonable to me, and the existence of an "MSG syndrome" that only seems to happen at Chinese restaurants for 95% of those who report it.

One difference between "MSG syndrome" and your lactose intolerance strawman is that lactose intolerance is a documented and understood phenomenon whose existence is not, as far as I know, disputed in the medical community. I am reminded, however, of when Steingarten referenced a study showing that only around 1/3 of claimed lactose intolerants actually tested positive for lactose intolerance, and that allmost all of the true lactose intolerants were able to consume as much as a glass of milk without experiencing any symptoms.

So, I'm not saying that there is absolutely no such thing as a person who experiences adverse effects from glutamate. I just don't think it's nearly as widespread as it appears to be, and I think there is a large percentage of "false positives." In addition, I think there are be any number of other elements that could cause or contributing to the reported symptoms in Chinese restaurants and that it is only the fact that people associate Chinese food with MSG that causes so many to leap to the conclusion that they have "MSG syndrome." On the other hand, anyone who triggers a migraine after eating an ounce of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano -- and I have no problem believing that such people exist -- probably does have a sensitivity to glutamate.

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Sam - is this not what I said? Maybe I didn't express it clearly.

Lactose intolerance is well documented and understood (although people still insist on refering to it as an allergy), part of the issue with false positives is that while many people are genetically predisposed to lactose intolerance, it can also be an acute thing in people that normally wouldn't be. The lactase enzyme is on the surface of the small intestinal epithelial, if you have an upset tummy this enzymes get stripped off and it can take several weeks to get back to normal levels. During this period people will be lactose intolerant and it is not surprising that they consider this to be a permanent condition, even if normal levels of lactase enzyme returns.

The MSG thing isn't understood at all. Harold McGee says that molluscs (excepting cephalopods) use high concentrations of amino acids such as glutamate and glycine to allow them to survive in seawater. I can and will eat a bucket of clams with not ill effects, logically there is no issue with glutamate. Very occasionally I get a tight face etc from a bowl of Pho, I often quote the Steingarten referenced study on "MSG syndrome", which is one of the few decent trials which shows now real effect at all. None.

So what is happening here then? The only thing I can think is that it is a seperate phenomena entirely. If could just be something simple like histamine reaction to an allergen or potentially it is multi-factorial. I think that there is likely to be a psychosomatic element in many cases reported (for similar reasons to the lactose study) and I have seen peopleuse it as an excuse for parochial/racists comments, but I'm not convinced that these isn't some real effect in many cases as well.

What I don't think think is that it is due to glutamate and Chinese restuarants specifically.

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What I don't think think is that it is due to glutamate and Chinese restuarants specifically.

I feel the same sensation after eating certain American fast foods, btw. Again, I'm wondering if it's not the glutamic acid itself, but the fact that it's concentrated in a different form (as a salt). I will admit to having the warm/weird feeling in my face, mouth and toes after eating something with a very large amount of reconstituted dried mushrooms in it, btw, so maybe it's quantity. With MSG, I think a little goes a long way and some producers of food use a large amount of it to coverup an otherwise not-so-great-tasting product (any cheap food in large quantities--like the fast food I mentioned). I feel funky after eating something with way too much sugar or way too much NaCl, too. All I know is this is something I experienced after consuming MSG (dissolved in water) in a blind test. I did not know it was MSG until a few days later. I'm sure as hell not going to stop eating foods with MSG in them, though, and I do think far fewer people suffer from a sensitivty than think they do.

Edited by JennotJenn (log)

Gourmet Anarchy

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I use MSG (Accent) quite often while cooking. Usually in addition to salt, but with the salt in a much greater concentration than the MSG. Thus far, I've never had anybody complain. Even those who supposedly develop horrible migraines when they eat MSG (i.e. my mom). This leads me to believe that while some people may legitimately have an MSG allergy of some sort, most people have just been conditioned to believe that MSG makes them feel bad. My mom also claims to be "violently allergic" to cilantro, but is not, because she's eaten it many times at my house with no ill effects -- when she didn't know there was cilantro in there.

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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  • 3 months later...

Admin: Threads merged.

So, if MSG really brings out the flavor of foods, why don't we cook with it? I have no interest in the MSG headache debate etc. I just want to know if it is used in any cusine other than Asian? It seems like it could really add "something" to certain foods...so how come we never use it? all of us have sechuan peppercorns in our cupboards, yet no msg. something I'm missing?

I tried using some in some tomato sauce the other day and noticed no discernable difference...hmm.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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