Lie — MSG is bad for you

The Story

Everyone knows how bad MSG (monosodium glutamate) is. Chinese food is full of it. Many people get constricted throats and some even strangle to death after eating it.

Since glutamate is a flavour enhancer added to some food, all we need to do is avoid those few products that still have MSG in their ingredients label and we'll be fine.


Many other food additives contain glutamate, even though the label doesn't explicitly say MSG. autolyzed yeast, carrageenan, corn starch, corn syrup, gelatin, hydrolyzed anything, milk powder, pectin, soy protein, whey protein, yeast extract, as well as generic flavour are just a few examples.

But it's not only in food additives. Especially high levels of glutamate occur naturally in cheese, corn, grape juice, green tea, peas, seaweed, tomatoes, and many other common foods.

Glutamate is an amino acid, so essential to life that our bodies produce it for us without our having to rely on dietary sources. All animal and plant protein contains naturally occurring glutamate.

Certainly too much glutamate can be bad for us, as can too much salt or too much anything. But significant levels of glutamate in our food is impossible to avoid, and really, there is no need to.

The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome is yet another urban legend. No scientifically controlled experiment has ever found any difference between doses of MSG and a similar nocebo.


Once a bad idea is spread to the public, it tends to stay. Advertisers are constantly on the lookout for such fears, so when they discovered that some people were avoiding MSG, they jumped on it.

Food packages that prominently displayed no added MSG sold better. It doesn't matter that the food itself was full of naturally occurring glutamate; it's the consumer perception and increased sales that count in the end.