Chinese cuisine

MSG is safe to eat, does not cause neurological damage

The Claim: MSG is a Fatal Brain Toxin, Causes Neurological Disorders and Other Health Problems

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced many Americans across the country indoors, it has also encouraged them to expand their palates with adventurous spices, natural ingredients, meal kits and home cooking, food industry experts say.

But one ingredient to watch out for, a social media post claims, is MSG, or monosodium glutamate.

“Deadly Brain Toxin,” reads a graphic shared in a January 26, 2019, Facebook post which has recently gained attention online. “MSG causes serious neurological disorders and other physiological health problems.”

It then lists a litany of other health issues such as headaches, childhood obesity, numbness, heart palpitations, and weakness.

To underline its claim, the post also includes an image of the Acc’cent seasoning – whose main ingredient is MSG – photoshoped with the skull and crossbones danger symbol.

USA TODAY has contacted the poster for comment.

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MSG is a popular flavor enhancer and preservative that has been used around the world for 100 years. Much of its unsavory reputation rests on flawed scientific studies of animals and humans, which have been debunked by more recent research.

What is MSG?

First discovered by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda, MSG is made up of sodium and glutamate, one of the most abundant amino acids found in the human body and in nature. Glutamate plays an essential role in neuromuscular development, metabolism and many other vital biological functions.

MSG on its own doesn’t have much flavor, but when added to certain foods it stimulates and intensifies the taste buds on our smelling tongues. umami, a Japanese coat rack signifying a pleasant and tasty taste.

When Ikeda first started taking MSG in 1907, he had distilled it from a glutamate-rich seaweed broth widely used in Japanese cuisine. Today, MSG is made by fermentation starch, corn, wheat, beets, or other foods high in sugar with bacteria that eat the sugar and spit out protein abundant in glutamic acid, an alternate form of glutamate. (Foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut are also made by fermentation.)

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Humans have been eating foods high in glutamate, such as tomatoes and cheese, for centuries. MSG has long been associated with Chinese cuisine, but it is also used to flavor Caribbean and Latin American sauces, Doritos, sandwiches at Chick-fil-A, low sodium products and many other processed foods, Dr Stephen Prescott, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, wrote in Oklahoman.

Flawed studies, no real scientific evidence

Health concerns regarding MSG emerged in 1968 after a Chinese-American doctor wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine wondering if the taste enhancer was the cause of his heart palpitations, numbness, and pain. his weakness felt when he ate in a Chinese restaurant.

The letter, published under the title “Chinese restaurant syndrome“, spawned a wave of animal and human studies where subjects were given MSG by injection or by mouth. A 1969 study by University of Washington researcher Dr. John Olney found that the Injecting significantly large doses under the skin of newborn mice resulted in impaired brain development, growth retardation, obesity, and infertility in female mice. Olney repeated the same experiment, this time giving oral MSG to rhesus monkeys, and came to a similar conclusion.

However later in 19 other monkey studies conducted by other researchers, no one observed results comparable to those of Olney.

In a human study where 71 healthy people received either MSG or a placebo, both groups complained of symptoms such as headache or numbness at about the same rate, even when participants were transferred to the option alternative.

In the years that followed, many organizations, including the United States Food and Drug Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association, all found to be safe for MSG.

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In 1992, the FDA initiated a formal review of the suspected adverse effects of MSG, and in 1995 he concluded that it was generally safe although it could cause mild short-term reactions such as headaches, numbness and palpitations in a tiny fraction of the population. The report noted that these symptoms tended to occur in people who ate more than 3 grams of MSG without food. It is important to keep in mind that the typical serving of foods containing MSG is less than 0.5 grams. Consuming six times that amount without food at a time is unlikely, FDA said on its MSG question and answer website.

A 2009 study found that dietary glutamate does not cross the blood-brain barrier – a system of blood vessels that regulates what goes in and out of the brain and spinal cord – in large quantities and is therefore unlikely to affect brain function.

A 2020 review studies involving MSG have also found that many of its reported negative health effects “have little relevance to chronic human exposure and are of little information as they are based on excessive dosage which does not correspond to levels normally consumed in food products “.

The impact of MSG on weight has been less clear, with some studies suggesting that it may cause weight gain but others observing that there is no connection between the two.

Our rating: False

We are evaluating the claim that MSG is a deadly brain toxin that causes neurological and other health problems, based on our research. MSG is a naturally occurring food substance that has been used for over 100 years. Claims that it may be harmful to human health are based on flawed scientific studies which have been refuted by more recent research. A small population of people may be susceptible to MSG, but the effects are short term and not life threatening.

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