What are Monosodium Glutamate Side Effects?

July 5, 2010- Monosodium Glutamate also called flavor enhancer 621 is one of the popular flavorings that also occurs naturally in some foods. The artificial MSG flavor enhancer was discovered in 1908 by a professor at Tokyo University who isolated it from kombu seaweed. MSG flavour enhancers are now cultured on yeasts and since its introduction in the USA in 1948, its use has doubled every decade. This was about the discovery of MSG flavor enhancer. However, before moving on to know its side effects, one must also know how MSG dangers came to be known to the world.

Discovery of MSG Effects

Dr Robert Kwok who had emigrated from China to the US, was the person who identified the first reactions to MSG in 1968. He reported that within 20 minutes of having meal at a Chinese restaurant, he suffered from numbness, tingling, and tightness of the chest that stayed there for about two hours (though he never had this problem when in China.) This collection of symptoms got popular by the name of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. After the doctor's report, a research was carried out in the US, which found that high amount of MSG flavor enhancers in food will result into the same reaction in almost everyone. The research also pointed that this MSG effect occurred on an empty stomach. Apart from the Chinese restaurant syndrome mentioned earlier, the following other symptoms were also found in some of the subjects

  • Burning, facial pressure and chest pain
  • Migraine headache
  • Gastric distress suspected heart attack - typically, pain in the chest, tingling and numbness from the chest down the left arm and a feeling of impending doom.

Again in 1976, another study found MSG effects to cause retinal damage in newborn mice, rats and chicks.

MSG Dangers- Side Effects of Flavour Enhancer 621

MSG dangers begin when it is taken in higher doses. The more you use MSG flavor enhancer in your food, the more you are likely to experience its side effects. Also, the flavour enhancer 621 side effects are visible more in people who are extra sensitive compared to other people. As stated earlier too, the MSG effects are worse when taken on an empty stomach. Some of the Monosodium Glutamate side effects on body include:

  • Rashes, itching, burning, numbness;
  • Migraines, headaches;
  • Asthma;
  • Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms;
  • Chest tightness, heart palpitations, heart arrhythmia, anxiety;
  • Irritability, restlessness, sleep disturbance; and
  • Obesity ( according to a study conducted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health study, people who use MSG flavor enhancer in their food more often are more likely to be overweight or obese)

Children are more vulnerable to MSG dangers than adults. In fact, MSG and other flavor enhancers are not permitted in foods produced specifically for infants and young children who are 12 months old or less. However, MSG effects can change with age.

Common Foods having MSG Flavor Enhancers

If you take MSG flavor enhancer in small amounts occasionally, you might not be in the danger zone for MSG side effects. However, if you take it in higher doses or are sensitive than other people or give your children this flavor enhancer, you might want to change your habits considering the Monosodium Glutamate effects. Here is the list of common food that contain MSG flavor enhancers for your help.

  • Sauces, gravies and stocks even if they read 'natural'
  • Processed meat, fish, tomato or vegetable pastes or sauces
  • Stock cubes, pastes and powders
  • Soy sauce, soy paste, soy protein, miso, tempeh
  • MSG seasoning powders like gourmet powder, Chinese seasoning, ve-tsin powder, ajinomoto, accent, zest, chicken salt or other seasoned salt with flavor enhancers

There are glutamates in some natural foods too. Although, they are in very smaller amount in natural foods than the MSG that is added to foods for enhancing flavor, yet many people are affected by glutamates in natural foods like:

  • Tomatoes (especially sauce, paste or powder)
  • Mushrooms
  • Grapes, sultanas, raisins, wine
  • Plums, prunes
  • Broccoli, spinach
  • Green peas (small amounts, but enough to affect some sensitive people)

Know more about monosodium glutamate and other flavor enhancers.

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