MSG in Food: Its Meaning and Impact on Your Health

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MSG in Food: Its Meaning and Impact on Your Health

In the modern world, consuming processed and packaged foods has become routine.

These food options contain additives and chemicals for preservation and taste improvement. One such controversial food additive that has gained much attention lately is MSG, also known as monosodium glutamate.

MSG is a flavor enhancer used for decades in the food industry. However, many debates regarding its health implications have been going on as well. This post will delve into the meaning of MSG, its effects on health, and what you must know.

What Is MSG?

MSG is derived from the amino acid glutamate. This salt substance is used to enhance the flavor of many types of food products, including processed meats, soups, crackers, snacks, and more.

MSG is also marketed under different names and often labeled other foods as natural flavorings, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, or textured vegetable protein.

Impact of MSG on Health

Several studies have shown that MSG can have harmful effects on human health. For instance, it can lead to headaches, migraines, and even allergies. Generally, these are harmless symptoms, but in some rare cases, they could lead to more severe health conditions.

Additionally, MSG consumption has been linked to an increase in blood pressure, which could lead to a high risk of heart disease. Finally, consuming food products with high amounts of MSG can lead to weight gain and obesity, which come with their own set of health complications.

MSG and the Food Industry

The use of MSG in the food industry is widespread because most manufacturers focus on offering consumers a better taste and flavor of their products.

MSG accomplishes this task perfectly. However, several adverse effects come with using MSG that should be discussed. Therefore, it is crucial that, as an informed consumer, you must be aware of the ingredients and additives that go into your food.

The Way Forward

If you are keen on limiting your intake of MSG, then reading the labels of food products is essential. Several packaged and processed food items are labeled as ‘No added MSG,’ but they can have glutamic acid, a natural form of MSG.

Additionally, you could also choose whole foods and cook frozen meals at home. Preparing food from scratch ensures that you control what goes into your meal.

How Many Foods Contain It?

As a mindful eater, you might wonder, “Is eating MSG bad for you?” Let’s decode the facts:

  • MSG is typically associated with highly processed foods.
  • While it’s hard to quantify how many foods contain MSG, it’s commonly found in fast food, canned vegetables, soups, and processed meats.
  • Despite its controversial reputation, many products still contain MSG due to its flavor-enhancing properties.

While MSG is generally considered safe in smaller amounts, it’s always wise to maintain a balanced diet and limit the intake of highly processed foods. Your health is your wealth!

Myth: Foods that contain MSG also contain gluten

MSG and gluten are two different components found in food. While MSG is a flavor enhancer, gluten is a protein in wheat and other grains.

Fact Check:

  • MSG: Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is generally recognized as safe and gluten-free by the FDA and trusted sources like the National Celiac Association and Coeliac U.K.
  • Gluten: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s not present in MSG but may be in the same foods that contain MSG.

It’s crucial to note that while MSG itself is gluten-free, it can often be found in foods containing gluten. Always check food labels to ensure they fit your dietary needs.

MSG food on brain health

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and its potential effects on brain health are a topic of ongoing debate. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Potential Risks: Some research suggests that MSG may cause lesions on the brain, particularly in children, leading to cognitive, emotional, and endocrinological abnormalities. MSG is also thought to release neurotransmitters, affecting physiological processes.
  • Controversy: Despite these claims, other studies maintain that dietary MSG does not increase brain glutamate concentrations or lead to neurotoxicity. It’s important to note that glutamate, in its natural form, assists with learning and memory functions.
  • Conclusion: While some link MSG to brain damage, others dispute these findings, emphasizing that MSG does not cause neurological disorders. The FDA has approved MSG as safe for consumption, but individual reactions may vary.

MSG vs. Glutamate

Have you ever wondered about the difference between MSG and glutamate? Let’s break it down:

  • MSG (Monosodium Glutamate): This is a flavor enhancer that’s been used in cooking for over a century. It’s derived from the natural compound glutamate and contains about one-third of sodium as table salt.
  • Glutamate: This is a naturally occurring amino acid found in many foods we eat daily, like tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms. Our bodies also produce it, and it plays a crucial role in metabolism and brain function.

So, what’s the takeaway? Despite their similar names, MSG and glutamate are not identical. MSG is a food additive derived from glutamate, while glutamate is a naturally occurring substance.

MSG in food Has Been Linked to Asthma Attacks

Did you know certain foods could potentially trigger an asthma attack? The link between food and asthma is a topic of ongoing research, and one such common food additive or substance under scrutiny is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).

MSG is a flavor enhancer used in many types of cuisine. While it’s generally recognized as safe by many food safety authorities, some people may have sensitivity to MSG, which can manifest as asthmatic symptoms.

It’s important to note that not everyone with asthma will be sensitive to MSG or other food triggers. Individual responses can vary widely. Some people may notice that certain foods, especially those containing sulfites, another preservative, can trigger their asthma.

Remember, maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding known triggers are essential steps toward managing your asthma effectively. If you suspect a particular food or additive like MSG is causing your symptoms, it may be helpful to discuss this with your healthcare provider.


MSG is an additive widely used in the food industry for decades. Its impact on health is undeniable, so you must be vigilant of the foods you consume and the ingredients that go into them.

But don’t worry too much either. The ingredient is generally safe in smaller amounts so just watch the amount of processed food you eat is the simplest, practical advice.

Understanding the different names that MSG goes by and reading labels can help you make informed decisions about your food. Additionally, choosing whole foods and cooking at home can ensure you eat foods that limit your MSG intake and lead a healthier life.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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