The MSG story….

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Known for it’s presence in Chinese food and thought by many (including me) to be ‘bad for you’ with side effects including headaches, drowsiness, anxiousness…similar to those associated with high doses of caffeine.

When browsing the web (as do far too much!) the other day I spotted something in an article which made me to dig deeper into what MSG actually is and where it is found in foods.  I was seriously surprised to read that ‘glutamates’ are non essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which occur naturally in an abundance of substances.  Interestingly MSG is the sodium (salt) of glutamic acid and was founded in Tokyo 1908 when a professor isolated the acid from a seaweed, naming the taste ‘Umami.’

On it’s own MSG flavourless, but is used in the right quantities by the food industry to enhance the flavour of a really very wide variety of foods….it actually comes in different concentrations under many names.

What can it be called on food labels?


Monopotassium Glutamate

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein


Calcium Casenate

Textured Protein

Yeast Extract (yes that’s right….good Old Marmite is pretty much MSG!)

Glutamic Acid

These are just a few example see this link for more info;

and for a list of common foods;


Is/Isn’t it ‘dangerous’?

From everything I have read, I can say in my opinion it’s not what we have been lead to believe, in fact in Australia and New Zealand there is significant evidence that eliminates MSG as the cause of ‘Chinese Food Syndrome’  i.e. headaches and grogginess.  It may be fair to say there could be a number of other reasons for that feeling after eating chinese take-out…possibly the oil they use for frying (which is probably reused) containing trans-fats which our bodies struggle to deal with? maybe it’s the beer and wine that usually goes hand in hand with these types of meals?

(I have to mention at this point that I am NOT an expert and am evaluating all the information I’ve managed to get my hands on 🙂 )

My Thoughts….

When I looked at all the other possible names food manufacturers use for ‘MSG’ and realised that it is in probably at least half of the food I eat, mainly Marmite which I often eat on my toast, I realised I never suffer headaches or any of those feelings I previously associated with it.  This got me thinking about the countries that use it in all their foods i.e. China and Japan…I’ve never heard that they all have any of these nasty ‘side effects’ nor have I ever heard from anyone who travelled there that they spent their holiday feeling groggy with an awful headache!!  I guess like most things…it’s all about moderation…..

I definitely won’t be stopping my marmite habit anytime soon 🙂





Question; have you ever experienced ‘Chinese food syndrome’? did you realise how many foods contain MSG??

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend so far…

L x



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