More Savoury Goodness

August 2, 2010

Torah Kachur

Science in Seconds On Location:  Torah in Chengdu, China.


MSG.  Also known as the the evil additive that causes cancer, diabetes, obesity and well, pretty much everything.  If you read the 'health' and 'natural' diet websites.




Except that it doesn't.


MSG stands for monosodium glutamate and is used in everything from my Chinese spicy hotpot to the shrink-wrapped chicken feet found in convenience stores (no, I haven't tried them).  Glutamate is a non-essential amino acid that is detected as umami, or savoriness, on your tongue by triggering glutamate receptors in taste buds.


Despite the fact that it makes food taste fantastic and gives Chinese food that typical deliciousness, the Western world freaked out over its use many years ago from a few complaints about adverse side effects such as headaches and difficulties with some asthmatics.  As usual, the fear-mongers won and now backpackers across China blame their hangovers, diarrhea and headaches on MSG.  But studies for over 15 years have found absolutely no common adverse effects of moderate MSG consumption (5-12g/day).  A study published this month has shown that MSG also has no link to obesity in Chinese populations that consume higher than average MSG concentrations.


Why all the fuss?  When MSG is injected in enormous doses, it can cause brain damage in rats and there is some evidence for moderate doses increasing appetite in rats and being a trigger for migraines in humans.  Similarly, some people may exhibit MSG sensitivity, basically, an intolerance to MSG but it is very rare and the placebo effect rears its ugly head in these studies even more than normal.


So, enjoy your hangover-cure-dim-sum.  Indulge in Peking Duck.  Slurp up ramen noodles.  MSG is nothing to fear and you will survive.  Okay, I'm hungry - off to enjoy a nice $1 dinner from a street vendor who has an MSG-shaker.  Bon appetit!




Email (optional)


© 2010 Science in Seconds. All rights reserved.     Disclaimer  |  Contact  |  Subscribe
Friend Science in Seconds on Facebook Follow Science in Seconds on Twitter Science in Seconds RSS Feed