MSG also known as Monosodium Glutamate or Aji-No-Moto is used as a flavouring additive in fast food. What is monosodium glutamate you may ask? It is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid. A non-essential amino acid is what the body can produce without any intake; amino acids are known as the building blocks for proteins.
MSG was discovered in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, a chemistry professor at Imperial University of Tokyo. He isolated the substance found in a seaweed that for centuries Japanese cooks had been using to make food taste better and found that it was glutamate. MSG came to the market in 1909 under the tradename Aji-No-Moto.
So what’s wrong with it?
After the spread of MSG to America after the second world war, in the 1960s reports of adverse reactions like seizures, headaches and numbness after having food from American-Asian restaurants began surfacing. This condition came to be known as “Chinese restaurant syndrome“. No credible studies substantiate any harmful health effects caused by MSG, according to National Institutes of Health. However, there are people with natural glutamate sensitivities having similar symptoms.
So does that make it bad?
Studies of organizations like the Food & Drug Administration haven’t found any evidence stating that consumption of MSG under usual levels is bad. Monosodium Glutamate is commonly found in many food items such as mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, and many other veggies. Surprisingly the average person eats about 10-20 grams of glutamates every day while a typical serving of added msg food contains only 0.5- 1 gms. Having numbness or a headache after eating msg added food could be due to hearing about the Chinese restaurant syndrome causing the nocebo effect where a person feels sick because they have expected to.