Is MSG (Monosodium glutamate) bad for you?

What is Monosodium glutamate (MSG)?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG), is a water-soluble sodium salt. It is mainly abundant in non-essential amino acid, glutamic acid. MSG is utilized worldwide for its “umami” taste and flavor enhancement qualities which were first considered a predominant taste in Asia and much later in Western cultures. MSG is bad for you as it increases health hazards like obesity, heart malfunctions, and other problems.

How MSG is prepared?

It is prepared from starch, sugar, beet, sugar cane, or molasses. The consumption of MSG has increased all over the world in recent years with an average daily intake from foods reported to be about up to 1 g in Europe, 4 g in Asian countries and 10 g in Germany.

It is widely used as a natural source and also as additives in certain food products, such as processed meat, canned vegetables, soups, sauces, dried bouillon cubes, and salty flavored snacks as well as some packaged foods without mentioning the label. There is a controversy over the use of MSG in foods worldwide and its safety as food additive remains debated (1). Let’s take a closer look at the effect of Monosodium glutamate on health

Effect of MSG on health

1. Effect on the reproductive organ

Intake of Monosodium glutamate can induce oxidative stress with the production of harmful radicals which further damage DNA and lead to cell death. It also decreases the testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone level. Therefore intake may affect the tissues of the testis and other reproductive organs, it may be better to reduce the use of monosodium in the foods or to remove it completely (2).

2. Risk of Hyperalgesia that is increase sensitivity to pain

A research study done in mouse proved that higher intake of Monosodium glutamate may reduce the pain threshold due to the overproduction of nitric oxide in the brain which damage to nociceptors or peripheral nerves that cause abnormally increased sensitivity to pain (3).

3. Effect on diabetes

Monosodium glutamate is effective to reduce postprandial glucose concentration (glucose level after meal) and pancreatic β-cell mass without affecting insulin levels or glucose tolerance. However, if you have a history of genetic susceptibility to diabetes or with preexisting chronic pancreatitis you should avoid the use of MSG because it may cause adverse effects (4, 5).

4. Effect on newborn and infant child

The newborn or infant child who is suffering from diabetes due to MSG exposure also leads to cognitive deficits/ impairment and neurodegeneration diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (6).

Moreover, the consumption of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and high sucrose diet in combination with increasing body weight, produce hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia, and hyperinsulinemia as well as stunted skeletal development. Therefore its intake  is responsible for the induction of type-2 diabetes along with several diabetic complications (7, 8)

5. Effect on the brain

Intake of MSG may cause headaches and dizziness because it induces cell swelling or death and neuronal necrosis in several regions of the brain thus cause brain neuronal injury (9).

6. Effect on blood pressure

Higher consumption of Monosodium glutamate may increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressures as well as increase nausea and vascular dysfunction (10).

7. Effect on weight

According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and some other organizations, MSG is generally recognized as a safe food ingredient however higher amount of intake of MSG (5 g) show a positive effect on overweight development/ obesity. It also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome (cardiovascular disease and diabetes) in person (11, 12). However other study showed that intake of MSG was not associated with overweight in Vietnamese adults. Therefore, the effect of MSG on weight gain is still controversial (13).

8. Enhance flavor and satiety

The addition of MSG in the soup and other dishes increases both pleasantness and savory character of the dish as well as suppress appetite. Therefore, MSG is known to enhance the flavor of savory (umami taste) foods, more pleasant, more delicious, more satisfying and consumption of total energy (14, 15).

9. Effect on Asthma

In the early 1980s question raised that MSG intake can provoke asthma due to the intake of animal fat while research study proved that MSG failed to induce signs or symptoms of asthma no such association between MSG (vegetable-rich, macho, and sweet tooth) intake and asthma are found (16, 17).

Monosodium glutamate is safe or not?

GRAS (generally recognized as safe), American Food and Drug Administration and several other agencies consider MSG safe to consume. Therefore acceptable daily intake (ADI) not specify a category.

Although intake of MSG show toxic effects on the following

  • Central nervous system
  • Adipose tissue
  • Hepatic tissue
  • Reproductive organs

MSG consumption shows symptoms like

  • Headache
  • Muscle tightness
  • Numbness/tingling
  • General weakness
  • Asthma
  • Urticaria
  • Angioedema
  • Rhinitis
  • Chinese restaurant syndrome (Flushing).

Moreover, increase consumption of monosodium glutamate may responsible for hepatotoxic, neurotoxic, and genotoxic effects therefore you should avoid or use common salt instead of it. However, most of the studies done on animals and differ due to the method of administration and the used doses in most of them were not comparable with human MSG intake.

But we cannot ignore the other study that shows MSG has many dangerous effects on health especially kids, so it is so necessary to declare its presence or absence and level on the labels of the products as well as MSG consumption up to certain level does not have any adverse effects because an excess of everything is bad (18, 19).

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28943112
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6686650/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793229/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22978669
  5. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0131595
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6183048/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29773001
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5778021
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802046/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25592010
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3095503/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583269/
  13. https://www.ore encbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22894833
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18279899/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24944058
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3519860/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10452749
  18. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41935-018-0038-x
  19. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942912.2017.1295260

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