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According to the Mayo Clinic, Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that's "generally recognized as safe," but its use remains controversial. For this reason, when MSG is added to food, the FDA requires that it be listed on the label.
It turns out the case against MSG is mostly hype, says Men's Health nutrition advisor Mike Roussell, Ph.D. "The science behind our fears just doesn't hold up," he says.
Monosodium glutamate is just salt combined with glutamate. Salt is essential to health. Your body can't make it, and your cells need it to function. And glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid that makes foods like soy sauce, aged cheese, and beef so tasty, Roussell says. So when you eat MSG, it's broken back down into salt and glutamate, he says.
"We wouldn't shun a restaurant for serving a grilled strip steak rubbed with powdered mushrooms and topped with blue cheese," says Roussell. "But the chemical compound that gives this meal its incredible flavor—glutamate—is the same compound in MSG."
-It is claimed to cause asthma, headaches and even brain damage.
-Glutamic acid functions as a neurotransmitter in your brain.
-It is an excitatory neurotransmitter, meaning that it stimulates nerve cells in order to relay its signal.
-Some people claim that MSG leads to excessive glutamate in the brain and excessive stimulation of nerve cells.
-For this reason, MSG has been labeled an excitotoxin.
*There is no compelling evidence that MSG acts as an excitotoxin when consumed in normal amounts.
While MSG can cause adverse symptoms in some people, doses used in studies were much higher than the average daily intake.
Some people may experience adverse effects from consuming MSG. This condition is called Chinese restaurant syndrome or MSG symptom complex.
In one study, people with self-reported MSG sensitivity consumed either 5 grams of MSG or a placebo — 36.1% reported reactions with MSG compared to 24.6% with a placebo.
Symptoms included headache, muscle tightness, numbness, tingling, weakness and flushing.
Impact on caloric intake :
While some studies suggest that MSG may reduce your calorie intake, others claim that it boosts intake.
Depending on who you ask, MSG is either perfectly safe or a dangerous neurotoxin.