Truth about Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)


MSG as a food ingredient has been the subject of many health studies and much controversy over the years and has caused many restaurants and food suppliers to label their food as MSG free, though that may be misleading. What is MSG exactly and why is it such a problem?

MSG is a man-made sodium salt of glutamate flavoring compound that mimics natural glutamates found in many common foods. Though it is clear that some people are MSG sensitive, a 1995 FDA report concluded that MSG was safe for most people when “eaten at customary levels.” Those who consider MSG to be dangerous warn to steer clear if you are sensitive to MSG, keeping in mind it is hidden in many foods and you may not know from reading the label. If you are consuming too much of it, as with any food you are sensitive to, experts warn you might experience some serious health problems.

How do you know if MSG or other glutamates are in your food? Monosodium glutamate is one of several forms of glutamic acid, a natural amino acid produced by the human body and occurs naturally in many protein foods such as cheese, milk, mushrooms, meat, fish and many vegetables such as tomatoes. Glutamic acid and its salts are also found in hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate, which may appear as spices or natural flavorings in many of the foods we consume.

Glutamate Contents of Foods
  Serving Size Serving Glutamate (g/serving)
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Tomato juice 1 cup 0.827
Tomato 3 slices 0.339
Meat loaf dinner 9 oz. 0.189
Human breast milk 1 cup 0.176
Mushrooms ¼ cup 0.094
Parmesan cheese 2 Tbsp 0.047
Corn ½ cup 0.031
Peas ½ cup 0.024
Cow’s milk 1 cup 0.016
Canned tuna (in water) ½ can 0.008