Few Facts About Monosodium Glutamate

Monosodium glutamate or MSG (also known as Ajinomoto, vetsin, ac’cent etc. which are different trade names of the product) is a commonly used food additive to enhance flavor (and taste also) especially in Chinese foods, processed meat and canned vegetables. MSG is naturally occurring amino acid which is non-essential. It is sodium salt of glutamic acid. USFDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) classify monosodium glutamate as “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS, but requires labeling when MSG is used in food products, i.e. it must be listed in the label of ingredients.

Monosodium glutamate at right amount can enhance the taste of various food items. MSG can significantly improve flavor and taste of various food items such as fish, meat, marinades, soups, various vegetables (e.g. pulses, lentils), sauces etc. If MSG is not used at right amount (lesser amount can not bring out the right taste and excess amount is unpleasant) it may spoil the overall taste. The right amount of MSG varies in different food preparations.

Is Monosodium glutamate safe?

This is an important question frequently asked regarding MSG. there are claims of its not being safe and there are also claims of various side effects associated with consumption of Monosodium glutamate. MSG is in human use for consumption for more than 100 years, but no claim about it being unsafe and reported side effects have been proven conclusively.

There are various reports of adverse reactions of foods containing MSG which is commonly known as MSG symptom complex (the original term of which is “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”). The symptoms of MSG symptom complex include:

  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Flushing, tightness in face. Numbness, tingling, burning on face and neck
  • Palpitation (rapid pulse rate)
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Generalized weakness

These symptoms are being reported to FDA also. But researches on these symptoms (MSG symptom complex) have not given any conclusive result about the relationship between these symptoms and MSG. few people consuming MSG may have some short term symptoms, but in general these symptoms are mild and no treatment/management is required. The best way to avoid reactions/symptoms is to avoid consuming MSG and MSG containing food products.

In some countries Govt. authorities restrict/prohibit consumption of monosodium glutamate by children below 12 years of age.

Image source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate

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