I'm curious about people's opinion of MSG.

Back in the 80s and 90s there was a huge movement to ban it because it did something evil to people's health... now I didn't pay close attention at the time, but I'm thinking this was the artificial MSG manufactured from soy.

These days, however, I've seen more and more people seek out MSG to use in healthy recipes, or at least they claim the recipes to be healthy. Either buying it or seeking foods that naturally contain MSG. I wonder, is MSG now a health food? Are they really seeking MSG or just G (however you spell that, glutimate?) that occur naturally in things like kelp?

I understand a bit about the umami 'flavour' how it helps other flavours to 'pop'... but why seek out powdered MSG when there are other foods that can help produce the same effect?

Is there really a difference in health consequences between naturally occurring MSG and commercially prepared MSG? Or is it simply a matter of volume and concentration of the substance?

What's your stance on MSG? Do you buy it in the powdered shaker? Do you seek out foods that contain it? Avoid it at all costs and never buy a food with it in, ever?



ChefJune May 27, 2014
I realize this is a loaded subject. I don't need any studies to tell me about MSG. I have no bad effects from eating foods like mushrooms, but when the chemically created MSG has been added to a dish I get a headache. And under other circumstances, I rarely have them.
dinner A. May 27, 2014
The "MS" in "MSG" simply refers to the sodium (single, so monosodium) positively charged counterion to the negatively charged glutamate. There is no difference in the molecular structure of glutamate in plant and animal tissues or in purified form as in MSG; the word glutamate specifies that particular structure. The main difference between powdered MSG and, say, shitake mushrooms is that since MSG is so much more concentrated, you can add immensely more glutamate to your food with that than you likely ever would with a naturally occurring source like mushrooms. Current scientific evidence suggests that most people are not very sensitive to MSG, but a small minority may be. Probably eating a lot of refined MSG is not a great idea, but unless you know you are in the sensitive minority, it's not necessary to avoid naturally high glutamate foods and probably ok to eat refined MSG once in a while.
This is a topic for which a lot of poorly controlled studies and pseudoscience are available to read, so be careful. For example, the Gangemi web page may have some helpful information, such as what foods have high glutamate content, but the very scary sounding links to all kinds of terrible medical conditions have no legitimate scientific basis.
Westcoasty May 26, 2014
My partner and I both avoid MSG as we are both sensitive to it. It will give me a three-day migraine, and he gets migraines and/or can't sleep. The link you posted to Dr. Gangemi was very helpful, as the list of MSG-containing foods at the bottom explains why we are having reactions to other processed foods as well. Thanks!
trampledbygeese May 26, 2014
A very interesting article that takes the anti-MSG stance: It focuses on how large amounts of glutimate can damage nerve least that's what I got from it.

So perhaps it's an issue of quantity. A bit like water. We need water to survive, but consuming too much is deadly

From what I've been reading, articles seem to take a very strong stance for or against MSG, but middle ground articles are not easy to find. It's difficult to sort through the rhetoric to get at the actual information. Think I might start looking at some of the actual studies, anyone got any good links for me?
jamcook May 26, 2014
Well , back in the day, most Chinese restaurants in New York added a lot of MSG to their was delicious . Many nights after a long day of classes and work at Columbia ,I would go to one of two second story restaurants.. The New Moon Inn, or the Moon Palace . I loved the food , but began to get weird tingling in my neck , and nasty headaches . Later on this became known as Chinese restaurant headache ,and Msg was taken out of the food ,and out of baby food , where it was apparently used to enhance flavor. The Restaurants were careful to tell you that they had taken MSG out of their food . I stopped getting tingly headaches. I still eat lots of Chinese food, and I would be very wary of putting Msg in food ,no matter how
It is sourced.
trampledbygeese May 26, 2014
I don't eat MSG - at least not pre-fab foods containing it - because of an extreme soy sensitivity (not all MSG is made from soy, but enough is that I can't take the risk - although it is possible it's the high quantity of glutamate that causes the symptoms, not the soy itself as I've noticed similar symptoms to the glutamate high foods listed in the link above, like tomatoes and mushrooms, but not others like fish and seaweed. - different molecular structure for the glutamate?) I've noticed MSG is listed as an ingredient in more and more foods. A lot of foods I use to be able to eat, now have MSG in the ingredient list. Even foods sold in the 'health' section have MSG in them now, whereas most of them didn't a few years back... or so it seems here. It's frustrating but good motivation to cook more of my own food 100% from scratch.

Seems strange to me that if the ingredient not sold in the stores so we can add it to our food and control the quantity, why is it allowed to be added to manufactured foodstuff where we have no data telling us what the quantity or source is? If people use to have MSG symptoms from eating at a chinese restaurant, how come we don't hear about MSG symptoms from eating pre-fab foods? Or maybe there was an interaction between the MSG and other ingredients in Chineses food that caused the symptoms? Or maybe the molecular structure of the MSG in pre-fab foodstuff is different than the sprinkle powder they use to use in the restaurants, and different again from naturally occurring sources? So much more to learn.
lapadia May 25, 2014
Hi, The attached link is an interesting read regarding this subject:
trampledbygeese May 25, 2014
I guess I also want to know if there is an equivocation here:

MSG that is manufactured to be easily dispensable in powder form, often made from soy.


MSG that naturally occurs in plants (and possibly animals?).

Same thing? Almost same thing? Very different thing?
bugbitten May 25, 2014
Okay, trampledbygeese, I'll wade in on this. Everybody is after adding umami taste to their dishes. Tomato paste, anchovies, Whatsthishere sauce (for the anchovies, I guess). Everybody wants to add glutamate for flavor.

Once popular was a supermarket item that you sprinkled on food called Accent. It had MSG and is gone from the shelves.

I think the general feeling, now, is that using MSG would be cheating. A la Lance Armstrong cheating. But if chefs start using it again the tide may turn.

PS, do you think it's better to be trampled by geese, or just bugbitten?

lapadia May 26, 2014
Hi again, trampledbygeese. Seriously, it is coincidence I just happened to have Googled your same question just last week! Anyway, I hope you (and all) check the link I previously attached to this Hotline; I find it to be a good “read” in regards to your specific question. Hope it helps :) Lapadia
trampledbygeese May 26, 2014
Thank you bugbitten. Love the name. I don't know which is worse... geese can be pretty determined and strong when they get an idea in their head, but we can always eat the goose.
I wonder about the MSG that use to be in the spice aisle, is that the same as the MSG that is on the label of so many pre-fab foodstuff these days? Off to read the link posted further down. Bet that knows the answer.
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