What is MSG & How Does It Affect Your Health?

MSG or Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer that is used commonly in the Chinese food, canned vegetables, processed meats and soups. Though The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has classified MSG as a safe food ingredient, and it has been used for well over a century as a food additive, but since last some years, anecdotal claims of illness have been associated with the consumption of MSG. More about this food ingredient will be discussed in the following array of the article. We will also know how does MSG affect your health.

What Is MSG or Monosodium Glutamate?

What Is MSG or Monosodium Glutamate?

MSG is a flavor enhancers that intensify the meaty, savory flavor of the food, as naturally occurring glutamate does in foods like stews and meat soups. MSG is the salt form of a naturally occurring amino acid, the glutamic acid. According to the book “Human Biochemistry”, it is explained that this food additive produces a savory, but salty taste to the food, which excites the taste buds and thus stimulates the release of neurotransmitters or the brain chemicals. The pleasant taste of Monosodium glutamate or MSG and the release of neurotransmitters are thought to be the basis for mild levels of addiction that some individuals may develop to the food additive. However, because of some of the anecdotal claims of illness caused after consuming MSG when it is added to food, the FDA requires that it be listed on the label.

How Does MSG Affect Your Health?

Now, we would talk about what does MSG actually do to your health. One of the most crucial factors in MSG research is that some of the effects can occur too quickly while others, that are more detrimental, might be more cumulative over time with subsequent exposure.

We must mention that not everyone will be affected the same way by MSG, and perhaps some people will not experience any problem at all by consuming this food additive. Still, there are some frightening aspects of this flavor enhancing compound and that can cause several symptoms over time that can result in much greater and more permanent problems to human health. You might also think that small amounts of MSG in any one food will not be a problem. However, if small amounts of the food additive are in a lot of common foods that we consume daily, then the problem could be really dangerous.

Neurological Problems:

We mentioned earlier that MSG disrupts brain chemicals as it breaks down into glutamate, which is an important chemical messenger in your brain. As per the book, “General and Systematic Pathology,” too much of any particular neurotransmitter can become an ‘Excitotoxin” and may over-excite cells to the point of damage. Excess of glutamate in the brain results in several enzymatic cascades that causes neuron death. This is why many symptoms that are reported from MSG consumption are neurological in nature.

MSG Symptom Complex:

Though MSG has been used for flavoring foods for decades, over the years, the FDA has received several anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to foods containing this food additive. These reactions are collectively known as MSG symptom complex. These reactions include flushing, headache, sweating, facial pressure or tightness, numbness, or burning in the face, neck and several other areas of the body, rapid, fluttering heartbeats or rapid heart palpitations, nausea, weakness, chest pain, etc.

Still, it must be mentioned that researchers have not found any definitive evidence of a link between MSG and all the above mentioned symptoms. However, they acknowledge that a small percentage of people may experience short-term reactions due to MSG consumption. Symptoms are generally mild and do not require any treatment.

Some Other Possible Effects of MSG on Health:

One study in mice concluded that injecting MSG into the mice, produced obesity, inactivity and several other hormonal fluctuations. This might require more research to know if the same symptoms can also be experienced in humans with MSG consumption.


Talk to your doctor in case you suspect any of the reactions caused due to MSG consumption and that might require a strict medical attention.