Q1. What is glutamate?


Glutamate is an amino acid found naturally in protein-containing foods such as meat, vegetables, poultry and human breast milk. The human body also produces glutamate in large amounts. The muscles, brain and other body organs contain about four pounds of glutamate, and mothers’ milk is rich in glutamate, compared, for example, to cow milk. Glutamate is found in two forms:“Bound” glutamate (linked to other amino acids forming a protein molecule) and “free” glutamate (not linked to protein). Only free glutamate is effective in enhancing the flavor of food. Foods often used for their flavoring qualities, such as tomatoes and mushrooms, have high levels of naturally occurring free glutamate.

For more information: Umami Substance

Q2. What is monosodium glutamate?


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of glutamic acid (glutamate). MSG is a flavor enhancer which has been used effectively for nearly a century to bring out the best flavor of foods. When MSG is added to foods, it provides a similar flavoring function as the glutamate that occurs naturally in food. MSG is comprised of water, sodium and glutamate. When eaten, MSG is separated by the body into a small amount of sodium and glutamate.

For more information : Umami Substance

Q3. How is MSG made?


MSG is usually produced through fermentation process. It is similar to that used in making, soy sauce, vinegar and yogurt. The process begins with the fermentation of corn, sugar beet or sugar cane. The finished product is a pure, white crystal which dissolves easily and blends well in many foods.

For more information: How do we produce MSG

Q4. In which foods is MSG used?

MSG can be used in many savory dishes including meat, fish, poultry, many vegetables, and in sauces, soups, marinades. While MSG harmonizes well with salty and sour tastes, it contributes little or nothing to sweet or bitter foods.

Q5. How much is MSG limited to use per day?

* JECFA is a prestigious scientific advisory body to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Q6. Does the body metabolize MSG added to foods differently from the glutamate occurring naturally in foods?

No. Glutamate naturally present in food and the glutamate derived from MSG are identical. It does not matter whether you select glutamate rich foods and ingredients like tomatoes, parmesan cheese, walnuts, soy sauce on the one hand or MSG on the other hand, the glutamate in each is the same. Medical specialists have known for decades that your body does not distinguish between the glutamate found naturally in foods and that in MSG. In fact, even today’s state-of-the-art technology can’t separate them. For example, if you analyzed a plate of spaghetti you could find out the total amount of glutamate in the dish. However, since glutamate is glutamate, there is no way to determine whether the glutamate came from tomatoes, Parmesan cheese or MSG.

Q7. How much sodium does MSG contribute to food?


MSG’s low sodium content represents a minor contribution to the overall sodium level of a typical diet. By way of comparison, MSG contains about 12% sodium while table salt contains 39%. And, MSG is used at levels lower than salt.

For more information: Effects of Reduced Salt

Q8. Is MSG safe?


Yes. MSG has been thoroughly studied by various independent international organizations in clinical and scientific studies which have all come to the same conclusion. MSG has been proven to be SAFE time and again.

For more information: Safety evaluation on MSG

Q9. Is MSG safe for infants and pregnant women?

Yes. Extensive research shows that MSG is SAFE for all humans, including infants and pregnant women. Breast milk is naturally high in glutamate; the average human infant ingests 150-200 milligrams of free glutamate daily from its mother’s milk. Nursing mothers should also know that the level of glutamate in their breast milk does not increase following ingestion of glutamate.

Q10. Does MSG impact on the central nervous system or the brain?

Evidence from animal tests shows that dietary MSG causes no central nervous system (brain damage) in humans. On the contrary, the human brain produces a significant amount of glutamate without which it cannot function.Free glutamate also plays an essential role in human metabolism. Because free glutamate plays such a pivotal role in brain function, it has been extensively researched to see what effect, if any, it has on the central nervous system and brain related disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. While a single study, conducted in the late 1960’s raised some concern about MSG, this particular research utilized large doses of MSG injected directly into the brains of neonatal mice. As a result, research was conducted using huge oral doses of dietary glutamate. None of this research was able to replicate the findings from the one earlier study, and all failed to support any link between adverse effects and human use of MSG. Most recently, in its 1995 report on MSG, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) stated unequivocally that “No evidence exists to support the ability of orally ingested glutamate to produce harmful effects in humans.” Research has shown that the brain maintains tight control over the amount of glutamate it contains. The blood barrier strictly regulates the amount of glutamate that enters the brain. In fact, almost no glutamate crosses from the blood to the brain. Overall the brain is a net exporter of glutamate.

Q11. Has research shown that MSG causes migraine/headaches?

There are many known ‘triggers’ for headaches, including diet and stress.A wide range of foods have been implicated as headache triggers. There are many theories about what causes migraine/headaches including heredity, neurological brain disorders and blood vessel disorders.

Q12. Does MSG cause Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS)?

MSG does NOT cause Chinese restaurant syndrome (CRS) CRS describes transient discomfort some people may feel after ingesting certain foods and beverages. In 1968, an American doctor wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine claiming that he experienced symptoms of numbness at the back of neck and a feeling of pressure in the face and upper chest muscles which he coined as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” Without any study or proof, he suggested this was caused by MSG which was used widely in Chinese restaurants. However, in 1987, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives(JECFA) concluded that “Properly conducted double-blind studies among individuals who claimed to suffer the syndrome did not confirm monosodium glutamate as the causal agent”. Furthermore, in 1993, this conclusion was affirmed by a comprehensive review and strictly controlled study at the University of Western Sydney .In 2000, Raif Salim Geha, a known American immunologist, together with colleagues from Harvard University, Boston University of public Health, Northwestern University of California conducted the largest ever multicenter double blind placebo controlled study on CRS and concluded “Neither persistent nor serious effects from MSG were observed, and the responses were not consistent on retesting.”

Q13. Is MSG allergic substance?

MSG is NOT allergen. A food causes an allergic reaction is called a food allergen. For anything to be classified as allergen, the food must contain protein. MSG is actually a sodium salt form of a glutamate which is one of the most common amino acid. Although glutamate is an amino acid and can be found in protein, the glutamate of MSG is a “free” glutamate which means it is not linked to any other molecule and therefore cannot be a protein. Further, many people believe that they have reactions from MSG, but if they eat ripe tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, cheese, meat, and seafood, they should also feel a reaction from those foods because these foods all have high amounts of “free” glutamate.Because of the widespread allegations that MSG cause various reactions (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome), most people started to believe that reactions they have to various food is a reaction that is brought about by MSG.

Q14. Does MSG cause cancer?

MSG does NOT cause cancer. MSG is quite simply glutamate, the most common amino acid, in as sodium salt form. Neither glutamate nor sodium has any carcinogenic properties. Further, despite many researches, there is still no scientific evidence or clinical proof to support the false claim that MSG causes cancer. On the contrary, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) toxicological evaluation of certain food addictives concludes “conventional toxicity studies using dietary administration of MSG in several species did not reveal any specific toxic or carcinogenic effects, nor were there any adverse outcomes in reproduction and teratology studies.” This rumor seems to have been based on misinterpretation and careless citing of a non-clinical study. The study stated that when certain amino acids were heated to 300-500C, certain cancer causing compounds could be formed. These findings were and are not relevant in any way to MSG because the dietary intake of glutamate does not require temperatures to this extreme and the normal cooking temperatures are generally below 250C.

Q15. Does MSG cause high blood pressure?

MSG does NOT cause high blood pressure. MSG contains only about 1/3 of the amount of sodium found in table salt, and is used at far lower levels to achieve the same food acceptability. In fact, replacing salt with MSG can help to reduce sodium intake.

Q16. Does MSG cause thirst?

There is no scientific evidence for this claim. Thirst may be due to the excess of salt in foods. If sodium, the major component in salt excess, thirst will naturally result. Sodium content in MSG is 12% whereas table salt is 39%, and the amount of MSG used for cooking can be far less than that for salt. Thus the thirst response to MSG should be less than that to salt.