Ingredient Investigator Extraordinaire: MSG


Monosodium Glutamate Gluttony!

Hello there, my friends! I hope you are treating life well by staying away from a little substance known as monosodium glutamate or MSG. This is another ingredient that is highly controversial because it is listed on the FDA’s GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) list. The reasons for its controversy are numerous:

• It is found in hundreds of foods

• It is used by thousands of restaurants and in nearly all grocery stores

• This makes it hard for change to occur due to the political and economical clout that it carries

• It tastes good, and people are unwilling to give up “good tasting” foods

• BUT . . . thousands of adverse reactions have been reported

This is another case of a food additive being declared safe by the FDA, but the recorded side effects telling another story. This would place this additive in the same category as aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, and other additives or sweeteners that have the blessing of the FDA, but the “silent curse” of those partaking of it.


MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is one of the 20 non-essential amino acids found in protein-based foods [1]. It is composed of 78% free glutamic acid, 21% sodium, and may have up to 1% contaminants [2]. MSG’s primary role is a flavor enhancer; although, ironically, in its pure form, it has an unpleasant taste until it joins forces with the sense of smell [3].

Who Is Right And Will It Harm My Health?

“Ladies and Gentlemen, are you ready to RUMBLLLLLLLLEEEEE!” So, here we are, with the FDA, many studies, and other credible organizations claiming that MSG is safe when consumed in “customary levels,” which who the heck knows what that means? I mean really–customary levels? “Customary levels” in the USA makes me gain weight even thinking of it, but I digress.

On the other side of the fence, you have natural health experts crying foul on this substance, and an army of people with anecdotal evidence to back them up. I know that anecdotal is anecdotal and not scientific, but when the reports keep coming out, it is hard to pretend that this substance may not have a darker side. Some of the side effects are reported under what is known as the “MSG Symptom Complex.” This complex was coined by Robert Ho Man Kwok and was described by him as follows:

“I have experienced a strange syndrome whenever I have eaten out in a Chinese restaurant, especially one that served northern Chinese food. The syndrome, which usually begins 15 to 20 minutes after I have eaten the first dish, lasts for about two hours, without hangover effect. The most prominent symptoms are numbness at the back of the neck, gradually radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness and palpitations.”[4]

Other Reported Symptoms [5] • Obesity

• Eye damage

• Headaches

• Fatigue and disorientation

• Depression

Even the FDA has conceded many acute effects of MSG, such as those in the following list, which many experts have deemed the MSG Symptom Complex: • Numbness

• Burning sensation

• Tingling

• Facial pressure or tightness

• Chest pain or difficulty breathing

• Headache

• Nausea

• Rapid heartbeat

• Drowsiness

• Weakness

The aforementioned symptoms seem to occur particularly in people with sensitivities. It has been estimated that up to 40% of the population may be candidates for the MSG Symptom Complex [6].

The Purported Reason Behind The Reactions

Glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for a large portion of your brain’s communication or “signaling” from one neuron to the next. Essentially, glutamate is what “initiates” communication and allows the thought process to occur. Excess free-form glutamate from sources, such as MSG, has the effect of over-stimulating this signaling or communication process to the point that it creates free radical damage and possible cell death. If you want to research this topic further, I would recommend Dr. Russell Blaylock’s book, Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills. It is a great read that can get a little technical, but it still gets the point across in a big way.

How Do I Identify MSG In My Food?[7]

This is a list that I took from Dr. Mercola’s website, which, may I add, is one of the best resources on the web concerning natural nutrition and health. These foods always have MSG in them in varying amounts, and you should try to limit or eliminate as much of them as possible.

-Autolyzed Yeast

-Calcium Caseinate



-Glutamic Acid

-Hydrolyzed Protein

-Monopotassium Glutamate

-Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

-Sodium Caseinate

-Textured Protein

-Yeast Extract

-Yeast Food

-Yeast Nutrient


This is another nutrient that the FDA has labeled “safe” but has proven not to be so based on thousands of reported acute and adverse reactions. I believe in the science of “excitotoxicity,” and I believe that this compound contributes to it. Please do your own research and come to your own conclusions, but as for me and my house, I will stay natural on this one and avoid the possible side effects that cannot and should not be ignored. The research is mounting against this bad boy, and, in my opinion, it will only mount on the negative side.

Life is good, my friends! Stay healthy and happy! 

God Bless,




References 1. ^ Ninomiya K (1998). “Natural occurrence”. Food Reviews International 14 (2 & 3): 177–211.doi:10.1080/87559129809541157.

2. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Samuels, Jack “MSG Dangers and Deceptions”

3. ^ Rolls ET (September 2009). “Functional neuroimaging of umami taste: what makes umami pleasant?”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 90 (3): 804S–813S.doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27462R. PMID 19571217.

4. ^ Robert Ho Man Kwok (1968). “Chinese restaurant syndrome”.N. Engl. J. Med. 18 (178): 796.

5. Mercola, J. (2009, April 21). Is This Silent Killer Lurking In Your Kitchen Cabinets?. Take Control of Your Health. Retrieved June 25 2013, from

6. “This is What the Data Say About Monosodium Glutamate Toxicity and Human Adverse Reactions”

7. Mercola, J. (2009, April 21). Is This Silent Killer Lurking In Your Kitchen Cabinets?. Take Control of Your Health. Retrieved June 25 2013, from

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