MSG is Dangerous — The Science Is In

MSG is dangerous

Ask anyone if MSG is dangerous, and you’ll get a myriad of responses. Some of the more scientifically-minded among us will scoff at the notion that MSG is dangerous or poses real health risks. Sure, they’ll allow, there are a few sensitive people who get headaches or migraines when they eat it, but MSG doesn’t actually harm the rest of us.

Or does it?

Are you one of the many who don’t believe that MSG is dangerous? Or do you, like me, believe that because it is a newfangled substance invented in 1908, we should inherently distrust it as a food additive and seriously question its safety?

And, if you are like me, what scientific research do you use to convince the doubters among your circle of family and friends? The good news is the science proving MSG is dangerous is out there, and I’ve collected a lot of here for you.

Research on the dangers of MSG continues to mount, albeit slowly. Some contend that funding for such projects is inevitably sparse. After all, why would the food industry (which funds most of these sorts of research ventures) want to spend money proving the detrimental effects of one of its chief money makers?

There are a growing number of people who report immediate, adverse reactions within minutes eating MSG. Perhaps you’re one of those people? Or, maybe you know someone who is sensitive?

Typical MSG complaints include:

  • burning sensations of the mouth, head and neck, (1)
  • weakness of the arms or legs, (1)
  • headaches, (1)
  • upset stomach, (1)
  • hives or other allergic-type reactions with the skin.(2)

Wait! You say. I call foul. How do they know that what these people experienced was actually because of eating MSG? How were these experiments controlled? Were they double-blind? That’s the only real way to do epidemiological research like this.

It’s true that when people self-report what they’re eating or how they’re feeling their own bias tends to get in the way. They misremember exactly what they ate. They make associations between what they ate and how they think they ought to feel.

But double blind studies on the effects of MSG have been done. These are studies where neither the participants nor the ones administering the study know who consumed MSG. Everything’s randomized and controlled by researchers a step removed from the process.

And, guess what? Even these double blind studies also found that MSG exposure caused muscle tightness, fatigue, numbness or tingling, and flushing in sensitive people.(3)

But what if you’re not one of these people? What if MSG causes no noticeable or immediate reaction in you?

Should you still consider MSG a dangerous food additive?


That’s because the effects of MSG are cumulative. Just because you don’t react to MSG now, doesn’t mean you won’t later. According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, who wrote a book on the subject called Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, sensitivity to MSG builds up in our bodies until we reach what he calls our “threshold of sensitivity.”

That’s because MSG overstimulates our nervous system — exciting our nerves and causing an inflammatory response. With time, these repetitive inflammatory responses cause our nerves to start producing more and more nerve cells that are sensitive to this kind of stimulation. The more overly-sensitive nerve cells we have, the stronger our immediate response to MSG will be.(4)

That said, you still may be scratching your head about MSG.

If the worst that can happen is a migraine headache or some hives, why worry about eating it now, when it causes no reaction in you?

Way back in 1957, a team researchers decided to see if glutamate could help repair a diseased retina. Remember, glutamate is a common and necessary amino acid in our diet (arguably the most common neurotransmitter in the brain), so this presupposition isn’t so far fetched. The researchers fed rats MSG and were shocked by their results.

Rather than repairing the disease, the MSG destroyed the retinal cells that allow vision!

A decade later, the neuroscientist Dr. John Olney used their method of destroying retinal cells so that he could study visual pathways to the brain. He found that MSG not only destroyed retinal vision cells, but also parts of the brain. This brain damage was done as neurons became over excited, virtually exciting themselves to death. He called this “excitotoxicity,” and that has led subsequent researchers to describe MSG as an “excitotoxin.”

While the naturally occurring glutamates in food aren’t dangerous, processed free glutamic acids like MSG are.

Not only do they cause brain damage and lead to nervous disorders, but they also cause radical hormone fluctuations. Mice injected with MSG become rapidly obese, inactive, and have other hormonal issues.(5)

Wait! You say. Those are mice and rats. We’re people. We’re bigger, biologically different. Surely it won’t affect us the same way.

Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t hold much weight. Humans are 20 times more sensitive to MSG than monkeys, 5 times more sensitive than rats.(6) We have glutamate receptors on every major organ, hard-wired into our brains, and even on the tip of our tongue! That means that one fifth the level of MSG used to cause obvious brain damage to a rat will do the same to you.

And what about growing babies? It turns out that MSG is especially harmful to pregnant or nursing mothers because infants and young children are four times more sensitive to MSG than adults!(7) Dr. Blaylock elaborates:

Many studies have shown that glutamate plays a major role in how the brain is formed during development. There is a programmed rise and fall in brain glutamate levels during brain formation, which occurs in humans not only during intrauterine life, but until the age of 27.

This oscillation in brain glutamate is very critical, and any disruption in glutamate levels has dire consequences. It has been shown that during pregnancy, a diet high in MSG increases the developing baby’s glutamate levels to those twice as high as the mother’s. This can significantly alter how the baby’s brain forms and functions.

Very high MSG intake (of any excitotoxin) can cause abnormal learning, addiction risk, and behavioral, emotional control, and endocrine problems later in the baby’s life.

We now know, for instance, that glutamate is the main control neurotransmitter for the hypothalamus. This section of the brain controls most of your hormones, eating behavior, temperature control, pain regulation, and sleep habits, as well as the autonomic control of your heart, GI tract, lungs, and bladder. When animals are fed MSG early in life, they develop severe abnormalities, which include a short stature, small endocrine organs (pituitary, adrenal glands, thyroid, ovaries, testes and pancreas), and a high risk of seizures and impaired learning. (8)

I don’t know about you, but this is enough to raise alarm bells.

Not only is MSG not a traditional food, not only are many people immediately sensitive to it, but it can also interrupt the hormonal and biological development of my children!

Lest you think this is all fanciful, it’s important to remember that a number of studies have found that the effects of MSG can occur cumulatively over time with subsequent exposure. For example, a study done with animals found that MSG exposure over a period of 3-6 months led to significant risk for damage to the retinas of the eyes.(9) Initially, there was no visible damage, but multiple exposure over a period of time led to the irreparable injury.

It’s simply not worth the risk.

So, if you want to avoid MSG, how can you do it?

Turns out, it’s harder than it looks.

If all you had to do was read food product labels and put anything that said “monosodium glutamate” back on the shelf, you could maybe handle it without much difficulty. Or, if you could trust a food manufacturer’s claim that there is “No MSG added” to their food, that would be relatively simple too.

But, MSG hides in more than 40 other FDA-approved ingredients. Because the manufacturer didn’t add an ingredient called “monosodium glutamate,” they can “truthfully” claim “No MSG added” on their label. Yet, nothing is stopping them from adding ingredients that contain MSG. In that case, the manufacturer only has to list the name of the actual ingredient added, not the ingredients within those ingredients.

So, they can say a food includes “spices” or “flavorings” when that spice mix includes MSG. They can say the food includes “yeast extract” or “hydrolized soy protein” without telling you that the process of creating those ingredients also creates processed free glutamic acids (also known as MSG).

For more on where MSG may be hiding in your food labels, I’ve created a handy, downloadable, easy-to-print guide for you.


(photo by punkjr)


(1) Metcalfe, D. “Food Allergy.” Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice25.4 (1998): 819-29. Print.
(2) Simon, R. A. “Additive-induced Urticaria: Experience with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).” Journal of Nutrition 130.4S Supplemental (2000): 1063S-066S. Print.
(3) Yang, W. H., M. A. Drouin, M. Herbert, Y. Mao, and J. Karsh. “The Monosodium Glutamate Symptom Complex: Assessment in a Double-blind, Placebo-controlled, Randomized Study.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Part 1 99.6 (1997): 757-62. Print.
(4) Blaylock, Russell L. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Santa Fe, NM: Health, 1998. Print.
(5) Lorden, J. F., and A. Claude. “Behavioral and Endocrinological Effects of Single Injections of Monosodium Glutamate in the Mouse.” Neurobehavioral Toxicology and Teratology 8.5 (1986): 509-19. Print.
(6) Blaylock, Russell. “Food Additives: What You Eat Can Kill You.” The Blaylock Wellness Report 4 (Oct. 2007): 3-4. Print.
(7) Blaylock, Russell L. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Santa Fe, NM: Health, 1998. Print.
(8) Blaylock, Russell. “Food Additives: What You Eat Can Kill You.” The Blaylock Wellness Report 4 (Oct. 2007): 3-4. Print.
(9) Ohguro, H., Katsushima, H., Maruyama, I., Maeda, T., Yanagihashi, S., Metoki, T., Nakazawa, M. “A high dietary intake of sodium glutamate as flavoring (ajinomoto) causes gross changes in retinal morphology and function.” Experimental Eye Research 75.3  (2002).: 307-15. Print.


    • Johnd681 says

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    • Lisa McKenzie says

      I can tell you in 2 words, why these substances are allowed in our food: campaign contributions, or should I say 1 word: bribes? These companies give huge amounts of money to the crooks in our gov’t and in exchange, the gov’t allows these poisons to be put in our food and then go on national TV and day they are safe. If they didn’t, they would run out of money. The companies would pull their donations left and right from their campaigns. They don’t want to stop the flow of money, so what do they do? Go and lie on national TV.

    • Devin says

      MSG is a naturally occurring substance found in tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes, and a number of other vegetables and fruits so it technically did not start as an additive. Yes someone made it into an additive, but odds are you’ve been ingesting MSG for many years.

  1. says

    MSG is proven dangerous for our brain for a long term use. It does not even taste really good, in my opinion. So I prefer plays around salt and sugar when I cook.

    • KristenM says

      I also like to play around with homemade broth. You can boil it down to concentrate it and make the MOST amazing sauces just by adding in a splash of wine or lemon or honey or herbs, etc. It’s so incredibly flavorful, and it’s how we *used* to get that umami flavor in our food before MSG was invented.

        • Frank says

          A cooking sho ran a test, they divided a restaurant in half and told people on the right that their food contained MSG but it didn’t and those on the left were told that their food didn’t contain MSG but it did. Surprisingly, many people on the right became sick as soon as they started eating and only one person on the left complained that he had a headache. I think it’s all in the people’s head. It was hilarious seeing the reaction of those that complained about all kinds of problems and they didn’t even ingest MSG. As I mentioned a minute ago, it’s all in their head.

          • Michelle B says

            It’s not in my head. I trigger whether I know I’m being poisoned or not. For instance I can drink Coke not Pepsi. I ordered a Coke at a restaurant with about 13 friends. They all heard me order Coke and the waiter went to fulfill the drink order. What he brought me back was pretty watered down. I took about 5 sips and started going blind. We asked the waiter if it was Coke or Pepsi, the food couldn’t have poisoned me, it hadn’t even arrived. The waiter said it was Pepsi, and that he told me that they did not have Pepsi when I ordered the Coke. I had a table of witnesses on my side. I spent the rest of the evening in the car in excruciating pain until the dinner was over. I was out of work a day that time.
            Then there was the time I tried Planters Honey Roast Peanuts. The ingredients looked simple enough. Peanuts, corn syrup, salt etc, I had 10 peanuts and was blind in 5 minutes. I was out of work for 2 days. I wrote Planters, they admitted it was in their corn syrup.
            After going organic (even low fat and no fat organic often triggers me), I have been cured of headaches, migraines, seizures, strokes, IBS and gluten intolerance. My daughter was cured of life threatening asthma. My husband was cured of extreme acid reflux and milk intolerance. What is allowed in the food currently is poison. Many people have had cures after just a couple weeks of clean food. Give it a try.

      • Nelly Bell says

        Totally agree with you. One of the best natural flavor enhancers is LEMON! The rest you mention are excellent also, but LEMON is king.

    • Ashley says

      You do realise this article is absolute non-sense right?

      Show one proper study that proves it is dangerous for our brains long term.

      Never heard such rubbish in all my life

      • says

        I am more eager to agree with Ashley, however I used to avoid using MSG in the restaurants I work in an still do because I believe the taste can be achieved by a natural process. David Chang actually brings up a good argument about the role of MSG in popular culture. It’s a video, kind of like a Ted Talk, but don’t expect the best public speaker.

  2. Julie says

    Thank you so much for this article. I really appreciate all the work that went into writing this. I have been trying to convince my husband and your “but wait” comment about the mice sounds just like him :) This helps tremendously.

  3. says

    I love your blog and I am firmly against the processed industrial foods that MSG hides in, inducing food addiction, but the idea that MSG causes brain damage is not supported by legitimate science. The science is not in on this matter- it’s been misinterpreted by alarmists like Blaylock. I encourage people to delve into the primary literature and look up #3 for example, which was not able to be replicated. Or consider the context of #5, which involved injecting it into mice, not eating it in food. Or the low level of the journal #9 is published in and the fact it is a study on a certain strain of rats consuming very high levels that you wouldn’t get even with a diet of restaurant Chinese food.

    Or the fact that Blaylock promotes his msg stuff among laymen, not publishing it in journals where it would be ripped apart, and sells expensive supplements that contain ingredients that can easily be seen as just as dangerous as MSG if you dig through studies in this way. It’s also worth remembering that a neurosurgeon is not a scientist, no matter how prestigious their title is. As far as individuals who have reacted to it, are beef or shrimp also bad because some people are allergic to those foods? It’s telling that the only documented cases of excitotoxicity from food in the medical literature are from contaminated shellfish ingestion.

    MSG is an ingredient used in a lot of bad processed foods. However, if you travel in Asia or eat with Asians from a local immigrant community, it is often added into good homemade foods, which is too bad since the evidence is fairly good that it can induce over-eating, but there is no evidence it causes brain damage from “excitotoxins.” In fact, Asian kids from countries where MSG is in EVERYTHING, consistently out-perform kids in the USA in academics. I’d rather have my kid eating Korean bone broths with some MSG in them than the garbage non-food we feed kids in this country.

    MSG is not dangerous, it’s industrial and in many processed foods that are bad for you. I’m not going to worry about an occasional dab of it, especially considering I use a lot of high glutamate traditional foods in my own kitchen such as fermented seafood pastes and stocks. It should be noted that scientists like Olney who have written about the dangers of excitotoxins in developing children also recognize these traditional high-glutamate foods could be dangerous. I doubt it, but I will refrain from injecting them into the brains of my offspring though.

    • KristenM says

      I wouldn’t say there’s NO science supporting that free glutamates like MSG can cause neural or brain damage, just that it’s limited and mounting slowly.

      When researching this for my book, I cam across quite a few scholarly papers and studies that point to this connection.

      This one, for example, hypothesized that glutamate excitotoxicity could play a role in brain damage caused by ischemia:

      This one shows how it leads to neuronal death:

      Olney, as you mentioned, has written quite a bit about how it can lead to neuropsychiatric problems:

      Others have shown that it can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases (like Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s):

      It’s been shown that removing excitotoxins like MSG from the diet has offered relief for brain/neural diseases like fibromyalgia:

      Also, while it’s true that Blaylock pointed to studies that injected MSG directly into rodents, many researchers also seem to administer it orally to cause damage, too.

      In this study, it was administered orally in low doses over a prolonged period of time and caused liver damage:

      It was also administered orally in this study, which found significant adverse reactions in brain development of infant mice:

      I found quite a few studies where it was administered orally to mice in various stages of pregnancy to induce fetal damage — including both obesity and neural/brain damage.

      And yes, I get that this isn’t the same thing as having a double-blind study on eating foods containing MSG on the long-term effects of it’s excitotoxicity. That study, to my knowledge, has never been done. But, there’s enough here to give a concerned person pause.

      Plus, there’s enough evidence conclusively pointing to it’s other (well-documented) adverse effects — like inducing hormonal imbalances, obesity, or causing liver damage — that I’m comfortable saying that the science coming in shows that MSG really is dangerous.

      • Melissa says

        Excitotoxic glutamate damage are usually triggered by brain injury caused by something else, not dietary glutamate. And the mice pregnancy studies used very high levels and I’d if you used similar levels of glutamate from bone broth, you’d get similar results.

        “Also, while it’s true that Blaylock pointed to studies that injected MSG directly into rodents, many researchers also seem to administer it orally to cause damage, too. ” I can’t find anything in that study about administering it orally.

        I really think Blaylock has done a massive disservice confusing the excitotoxin-induced brain injury with dietary intake of glutamate, of which there is no connection.

        And it’s worth remembering that you can find studies showing damage in some of these genetically engineered rats for all kinds of foods, including those real foodies enjoy like garlic and peppers.

        Sure, those are some studies you linked to, but the amount of studies that show the opposite conclusions is twice as long.

        • Whitefox says

          I would second this whole “MSG isn’t going to kill you” trend. Definitely, there’s evidence for really high levels or injection studies in mice = excitotoxicity, but that doesn’t happen in humans.

          Note the part where the safety evaluation stated that voluntary ingestion of MSG cannot possibly exceed 60mg/kg dose whereas 500mg/kg was required to cause lesions in the mice due to excitotoxicity. “Intake levels associated with the use of MSG as a food additive and natural levels of glutamic acid in foods, therefore, do not raise toxicologic concerns even at high peak levels of intake because the mechanism of toxicity appears to be related to the peak plasma level achieved rather than the area under the curve”.

          Also: “a subsequent study (Fernstrom et al. 1996) using equivalent (pharmacologic) doses of MSG rather than the free acid failed to demonstrate any effect on plasma prolactin, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, growth hormone, cortisol, thyroid-stimulating hormone or thyroid hormones despite an 11-fold increase in plasma glutamate levels”

          So overall not too bad!

    • Nirmoha says

      I also question that one Melissa that MSG is used in most of the foods in all the countries of Asia. A lot of people grow up on it but how affected by it are they really? I try to avoid it at all costs living in asia myself and the only way to do that is by cooking myself. Otherwise, it’s in most of the foods you find in the restaurants, even the ones that claim they don’t use it… it’s in all the sauces and condiments added to the foods. I’m also surprised that one of the more common reactions to msg wasn’t included above, that being blisters appearing on and inside the mouth. It shows up like cold sores but isn’t cold sores.

  4. Sarah L says

    If gelatin is listed in the “always contains MSG” category, what about the Great Lakes Kosher Beef Gelatin I use all the time? Advice?

  5. says

    I wish every mom had this information. I did not know any of this when my kids were small. It took us two years to dig deep and find this culprit. Your article explains why my youngest son didn’t show the effects until he was five years old – they are cumulative. The tingling and agitation just drives him crazy. We are still trying to detox his system. And as mentioned above, msg is hidden under other names. If he eats it, he has a reaction that is so frustrating for him. It is sad because he feels like something is wrong with him. What’s a kid to do? What is a parent to do? We live on a farm now. We homeschool and eat almost exclusively at home. I cook most of our food. But this is not an option for many people. How many kids are out there moody and agitated and can’t control it? With every meal, their system is filled with more msg and the cycle continues. They feel miserable and they don’t know why. Moms are exasperated and feel they can’t get a grip on their child’s behavior. Thank you for posting this much needed information.

  6. Pete R. says

    Great article!! Your articles are very informative. Reading the list of ingredients containing MSG, I couldn’t help but notice many of the “low fat” or “skim” milk dairy products contain some MSG. While I don’t over consume dairy products, is it the “lesser” of two evils (so to speak) to just consume whole milk, whole yogurt and whole cheese as opposed to the much more altered low fat and skim choices? Thank you.

  7. Lanaestahl says

    You have raised a concern about supplements. Due to leaky gut I am try desperately to heal but noticed that MSG is found in the enzymes that I use on a daily basis. Scd calls for gelatin consumption. Any thoughts?

    • Tara says

      I can relate. I’ve got severe gut issues – can only tolerate three foods. I’ve tried both GAPS and SCD, as well as supplementation with glutamine, and got worse on both of them. But, this is due in part to my methylation issues (see my post)…I say “in part,” because it’s a chicken and egg situation. It took me seven years to get to this point, after consuming tons of high sulfate, high histamine foods, and high glutamate foods (broth) and supplements.

      You don’t mention what enzymes you’re taking, but any gut supplement that contains MSG should be removed from the market, IMO. I’ve never seen that listed on a digestive enzyme, but I haven’t been around the world, either. :)

    • Michelle B says

      I had IBS and a gluten intolerance. The IBS was from MSG, the gluten intolerance came later after a long run on low level antibiotics. I was able to heal when I went organic, cut out low fat and fat free foods, and avoided most protein drinks. I was only able to tolerate Nutirbiotic protein drink. It breaks down the proteins into easily digestible protein with enzymes, not chemicals. To fix the gluten intolerance I took Probiotic Pearls for about 6 months. After 6 months I was able to eat bread again. After going organic (or at least minimally processed, less ingredients) I have also been cured of headaches, migraines, seizures and strokes. It might not work for you completely but I’m sure it will help. My husband had acid reflux so bad he had to sleep sitting up and also what appeared to be lactose intolerance. Within moments of eating cereal he would be regretting his food choice and running. When he went organic those conditions went away as well. He loves his cereal and milk now.
      I have also recently read an article though that contributed leaky gut to artificial colors and preservatives. If this is the case going organic will also help.

  8. Rebecca Miller says

    Anyone have any thoughts on detoxing it out of our bodies. Oh my did I have a time eating all the MSG I could back in the SAD days. I have payed a price and would love thoughts on getting it out once it’s in. And I never comment here but since I am now thank you for this blog and the time and effort you put into providing quality and trustworthy info. I truely appreciate it!

    • Michelle B says

      When my daughter stopped eating MSG her life threatening asthma resolved in two weeks. From her reaction I would guess most of it would be out of the system in a couple weeks, or at least enough to make a noticeable improvement. I am more sensitive than my step daughter, my improvement was immediate.

      • Marabiloso says

        No it doesn’t.

        It’s actually the other way round…

        L-glutamate is in every living being on Earth and in the oceans. Therefore, if you want real glutamate-free food, you have to process it very thoroughly with really beefy chemicals…

        BTW, L-glutamate is responsible for a good part of neural/axone/dendrite communication/regeneration in the brain. The question is more: are having enough L-G?

  9. says

    I LOVE this post. I read Blaylock’s book a while back, and was astounded at all the ways MSG can be hidden in products. I am extremely sensitive to it, so I can attest to the fact that labels such as ‘natural flavors’ are in fact highly suspect. I am super wary of products such as NuNaturals stevia for that very reason. I am so happy to see another blogger bringing this to light!!

    As far as the argument above, I do believe we need glutamine for muscle repair/growth, intestinal issues, etcetera, but it’s when the cells become saturated that problems start to occur. Glutamine becomes toxic (just as other nutrients do) when taken in excessive amounts, which is probably happening frequently among people given the numerous ways it can be hidden.

    Thanks Kristen!!

  10. Sarah says

    Great article! Have you spoken to John Bandy (, since you’re in the Austin area? My entire family has been to see him and other practitioners at Austin Holistic Health. He found that my younger brother, who has been diagnosed as on the autism spectrum since he was a child, has a major sensitivity to MSG. My family went off of MSG around 10 years ago and the difference has been dramatic. As a scientist, I have some pretty serious problems with the notion that a diet can “cure” autism, especially as what symptoms exactly can be categorized as autism is an extremely fluid category and may change without intervention as a child grows. That being said, certain features of my brother’s autism change dramatically when he is off MSG. He has facial ticks that almost completely disappear, his focus on school work is better, and his speech is more comfortable and fluid. He’s never going to be a completely neurotypical person (and he wouldn’t be the person he is today if he were), but a diet free of MSG gives him pretty visible improvements. As for me, I’ve been on the natural foods bandwagon my whole life and MSG-free when at my parents’ homes since I was 14. I’m now 24 and eat a mostly whole foods diet. Even without a particular MSG sensitivity, so much time on a completely artificial glutamate-free diet (even free glutamaic acids are a problem for my brother) has left me very sensitive to its effects. My husband and I recently joined some friends for dim sum (which I love but only from restaurants that don’t use lots of MSG), and I ended up passed out with a migraine for 4 hours after eating. Needless to say, we’ve since avoided that restaurant and learned how to make Asian food at home.

  11. Tara says

    Such a fantastic article – thank you for helping to spread the awareness.

    There is a portion of the population for which MSG and any high glutamate foods (and glutamine supplements) are especially dangerous, and those are individuals with genetic methylation issues such as MTHFR, etc. (An estimated 40% of the population, and many people live a lifetime without ever even knowing they have the related SNPs.) This includes homemade broths for a lot of these folks (even if meat is simmered for just one hour).

    Additionally, If your children are on the autism spectrum, run like crazy from MSG and any high glutamate foods and glutamine supplements. You can learn more by Googling Dr. Amy Yasko and reading her book on her site.

  12. Sharon says

    I agree! I think this stuff is very bad. I try to avoid it if at all possible. I can tell when a processed food has it without even reading the ingredients too. If I eat the particular product and it tastes sooo good to me that I can’t get enough of it……to me that is a sure sign that it has MSG. It causes the brain to think the food is better tasting than it really is….truly a drug.

  13. Tom Gibson says

    When you start making claims early on that MSG was invented then you show me that you are intellectully very lazy and not to be trusted. MSG is a naturally occuring substance that has been synthesized because people think it tastes good. Every other thing else said might be true but I don’t trust the author because their prejudice was apparently more important than accurately reporting this story.

    • KristenM says

      But it was invented. Naturally occurring glutamates have been in food forever, but processed free glutamic acids (MSG)were discovered/derived in Japanese laboratories in 1908.

      For more on the history and creation of MSG, please read this.

      • Priya says

        Unfortunately derived means just that, not invented (which implies that it did not exist naturally previously and only exists synthetically). I would like to point out that MSG exists naturally in ALL proteins, i.e. meat, fish, eggs, cheese, etc. It’s also found in a high concentration in tomatoes and in seaweed (which is where it was originally derived from).


        Natural and artificial MSG by definition have the exact same chemical structure. They are no different. As with most things, moderation is key (not that a lot of those studies gave it to the rodents in quantities that would never ever be given to humans).

        I also want to point out that the neurotoxicity studies are ongoing.

        This is the result of 2 hours of procrastination on the internet so is by no means watertight BUT to provide some studies of my own

        aaand a whole bunch here just read them (some are for and some against MSG but the overwhelming majority are for)
        (ignore the fact that that’s a wiki link, I focused on the studies the wiki article linked to)

        there are lots of other refutements that I have but Melissa has covered a lot of them buuut if people have specific counter-studies I’d be interested to read them


      • Michelle B says

        I do not react to natural glutamate. I react very seriously to man made, or derived, MSG. Perhaps it is the manufacturing process. After trying several protein drinks, I only found one can drink one protein drink called Nutribiotic. The protein is broken down with enzymes not chemicals and it doesn’t bother me at all. (It doesn’t taste great but it doesn’t land me in the ER either, it’s a compromise.) As a layman I do not know why my body knows the difference but it does.

  14. says

    “they can say a food includes “spices” or “flavorings” when….etc.” The thing I don’t get is how anybody thinks that they can eat healthy by reading the labels anyway! The “foods” with labels on them that I would eat are few and far between. As far as “spices” and “flavorings” etc. go, I will add my own, thank you. It is like playing Russian roulette with your health. As always, another excellent article.

  15. Sandra says

    I wish MSG would be banned. It would make life so much easier for me. MSG definitely gives me migraines. If I could eat without worrying that a food I eat out at a restaurant has MSG (which it probably does) it would be great!

  16. Jennifer says

    And MSG is in VACCINES people!!! Vaccines are given to most people, including PREGNANT women. Hello! But they don’t tell you it’s in there… You have to go to the ingredients lists & look for it yourself. Ugh. Makes me SO angry. Here’s a starter link directly from the CDC itself, & you can go research specifically which ones after that:

  17. Tom Edgar says

    The question is surely “Why do you NEED M S G at all?”.

    In my “Club” I recently ordered a steak and was asked. “What kind of sauce,(gravy) mushroom, pepper, or onion?” My answer was “If the steak is perfect it shouldn’t need dressing up, ” and it was.

    Food, generally, if it is fresh, of good quality, and presented perfectly needs no additives. Like kissing a non smoker. Taste the difference.

  18. Evan says

    I love the title “the science is in.”
    Yeah except your claims are pretty much all wrong. A 10 min read on the wiki article for MSG would be a good start on the actual science of MSG. As much as I don’t like food industry and am passionate about similar things in food culture, this is just fear mongering and WRONG. Please refrain from publishing bad science. Thanks.

  19. Brandon says

    You lost all credibility when you said MSG was “newfangled substance invented in 1908.” Glutamate, is a fundamental component of virtually all the proteins in your body, it has been a necessary component of life for literally billions of years.

    The double blind study you cited is terrible. I can’t get access to the full article without paying for it, but just from the abstract alone you can discover that their study used only 61 patients who already declared a supposed glutamate intolerance. And of those 61 a full 34.4% responded to the placebo whereas 45.9% responded to the glutamate. If you know anything about statistics you’ll see that these percentages are way too close with such a small sample size to say anything conclusively. This is compounded even further by the fact that the researches don’t even know how to conduct a proper double blind study. You aren’t supposed to give both the placebo AND the actual glutamate to the same group of people!

    In the end glutamate is an essential component for the synthesis of all your proteins. It’s a natural compound that your body makes as part of normal metabolism, and your body is perfectly capable of regulating MSG concentrations through normal biochemical pathways.

    Judging by the quality of this article I’m guessing you have no background in biochemistry but if you google image search glutamic acid pathway and look in the image section you can find plenty of good examples of how glutamate is synthesized and regulated and also it’s relation to the krebs cycle.

  20. Christina says

    I know im late to the discussian but as a child of ten who had never even heard the name msg, I knew something was wrong with chinese food because of how sick I became . I ate it once or twice more and then avoided it for years. years later whrn I learned about msg I decided to try it again at a restraunt that didnt use it. Low and behold I didnt get sick. I can actually get sick just from smelling it in high amounts. If a restraunt uses it alot I can tell right away. I was unaware it could be hiding in other ingredients so thank you. hopefully I can remove any other items from my diet that may be making me sick without knowing the trigger.

  21. Jennifer C-K says

    If you have time, please update the Wikipedia page on this. The last time I looked it, it was very MSG positive. Thank you!

  22. cheryl says

    Hi! I am super sensitive to msg from zig-zag vision to sensitivity to light and sound to stomach upset. My whole life this has happened and I figured out early on it was from school lunches and have avoided it as much as possible. Ethnic food is loaded with it from chinese to thai, indian and mexican which super sucks…
    Anyway, is there a place where I can report my reactions. To some ongoing study group or something? Somewhere where it will help to get this substance banned?!

    • grendelsdad49 says

      I wish that I could sound more unsympathetic. It is your wish that a substance that you “think” is bad for your health be banned for everyone? I rather like various ethnic cuisines–in fact–over 400 restaurants will deliver to my house here in Chicago near Wrigley Field. Additionally, there are thousands of restaurants within a 30 minute drive.
      When I cook I will actually add pure MSG to many dishes or I will use its natural substitutes like anchovy or tomato paste to build layers of flavor. My 96 y.o. father had no food allergies whatsoever all his life until he went into nursing care. Suddenly, he could not eat MSG, gluten, dairy, canola oil, etc. He would grill the poor waitress when I took him out to dinner and be a real horror. At the end of the meal I always had the waitress ask if she could bring him some pie and one really smart girl replied, “a la mode, OK?”, when he said yes.
      Please get a real medical evaluation of your condition “super sensitive to msg from zig-zag vision to sensitivity to light and sound to stomach upset” can be caused by things other than what you eat…

      • Gary N. says

        “Please get a real medical evaluation of your condition “super sensitive to msg from zig-zag vision to sensitivity to light and sound to stomach upset” can be caused by things other than what you eat…”

        The problem is that doctors, in Canada anyway, do not recognise MSG as being a problem, Health Canada says it is harmless even in large doses. So with a few years of declining health such as high BP, wheezy asthma, blurry vision and night glare, assorted aches and pains, cramps, muscle and tendon soreness and stiffness, chronic scalp flaking, I figured I’m just aging early (only 58 when it all started going downhill. However, after a Shake and Bake meal one night, I awoke with tthe most incredible pain in my back/chest/arms, sweating, chills, vomiting, mental confusion and brain freezes, emotional swings from weeping to uphoria, hot patches on scalp, ears, nostrils, just a wreck. During almost 4 days of tossing and turning and great pain, it occured to me that I had had similar but much less severe synptoms many times over a few years, and never being able to figure out what was up, the MSG thing popped into my head. When I started to recover, about 4 days before I could keep anything down, I avoided all MSG, totally, and within 8 days, MY BP was nrmal, eyesight much improved, astham much reduced, and scalp completely smooth and soft.
        After a month I felt 10 years younger, just a miracle as far as I am concerned, but accidentally ingesting even small amounts of MSG (or similar excitoxins) will spike my BP from 140/80 to 180/1110 for between 4 and 7 days, then come back down slowly to 140.
        So maybe not everyone suffers from MSG sensitivity, and it may be that blood type has something to do with it. A friend who also had many health issues went on a blood type diet and he too is feeling better than he has in years, a clue I believe.
        So now it’s cooking from scrath, no eating out, no candies, chips (Kettle Sea salt chips now and then, seems OK), canned, packet or jar sauces, soups, etc. A big lifestyle change, but worth it absolutely.

  23. Rob L says

    Thank you for this post.

    I have had a dry-mouth (I call it cotton-mouth, because it feels like the inside of my mouth is lined with cotton wool) along with an unslakeable thirst and, worst of all, terrible heart palpitations whenever I eat anything containing MSG, Hydrolysed Protein, Hydrolysed Starch, Modified this, that or the other, or any of the telephone-book sized list of ingredients made from or containing free glutamic acid.

    I now have to avoid most processed foods, and eating out is a lottery (I want to Japan earlier this year and resigned myself to having MSG reaction every night)

    I have managed to avoid reaction most of the time, with careful planning and preparation, but it is tiring when you can’t just “grab something out of the freezer” without having prepared it carefully yourself.

    I wish Manufacturers would at least give us a choice, but they don’t. I cannot buy a single pre-prepared broth/bouillon/stock concentrate or powder that doesn’t set me off. Massel used to be OK, but they’ve changed. Today I just made another batch of my homemade beef stock cubes. It takes a lot of time, but it’s very worth it in the end.

    At least I know it’s not just me. :)

  24. Joie Valdez via Facebook says

    In Asian markets they label it agi, also. I get migraines when i have it. Hate the taste and avoid it at all costs.

  25. Marabiloso says

    That’s a brilliant work of misinformation, well done.

    The (really scientific) experiments have proven you don’t overdose glutamate because it’s hydrosoluble (unless you inject it, but it’s not really a normal way for food intake), none of these effects have been seen when the MSG comes in food (combined with water); when you get the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”, you better measure the sulphides in the drinks (headache guaranteed…) than the L-glutamate in the food…

    It’s made by fermentation since the mid-70s (mainly because it’s cheaper, being safe is only a side effect), so it’s strictly the same molecule as in nature and every eucaryote and most plankton (which is kinda expected for an oligo-element participating in the ribosomal activity…).

    Hence, try to find a viable diet without it. How cooked do you want your stones?

    Do you plan writing something about vitamins A and E, preferably suggesting it’s safe to consume them in [very] large quantities wherever you can find them (they’re liposoluble, take a wild guess)? You’ll have to suggest food you should take to be “healthy”, instead of suggesting to ban omnipresent oligo-elements with unproven adverse effects, won’t you?

  26. Roxanne Elise via Facebook says

    I get headaches too. Glad you posted this after another page about science (that I like for its actual interesting science info, but is so whacked when it comes to nutrition) just posted an article with really no valid citations claiming MSG is really totally fine. (They and several followers claim natural health is “pseudo-science!”) One guy commented, “MSG isn’t bad. All it is is a flavor enhancer.” Facepalm. It is a poison.

    • Gary says

      Recently there seems to have been a lot of sites posting the same article about how MSG is safe, but my own experience shows it is definitely not safe for me, and I have met many other people, including a pharmacist and health care workers who also suffer badly from even small amounts. It bio-accumulates for one thing, meaning it builds up in your sysyem over the years and triggers often severe reactions once a certain level builds up in the body. All I can say is that after years of odd, undiagnosed sysmptoms, 2 weeks off all MSG cleared up numerous ailments, including high blood pressure, wheezy asthma, poor eyesight, muscular aches and pains and stiffness, a chronic scalp condition, mental fogginess, and depression.
      Some estimates put at 40% of the population having some adverse reactions, and maybe up to 10% having serious or even life threatening reactions, including atrial fibrilation. The stories of people having a heart attack after a big meal are true according to emergency room medics, who are trained to recognise the signs of MSG toxicity. It is definitely not safe for many people though, and there should be warnings on all MSG containing products, and not just foood, about the possible dangers to certain individuals.

  27. Mary Light via Facebook says

    It does always amaze me to see it sold in huge packets in Asian markets, and It is labelled MSG whenever I see it.

  28. Amanda Brazee via Facebook says

    You probably don’t read Bon Appetit magazine but a recipe in this month’s magazine actually called for MSG!! (I hate what Adam Rapaport has done to that magazine.)

  29. Dave says

    MSG is a natural occurring amino acid. It is not bad for you. Sugar is a natural substance so is fat and so on and so on. People stop the stupidity, too much of anything is probably not going to be good for you.

  30. Sarah Bartlett Shelton via Facebook says

    All I know is that it gives me migraines from hell, and that’s the nicest thing I could say about it.

  31. nana says

    My son has mild autism, hyperactivity, o.c.d and anxiety. His symptoms were controlling our lives. I watched a wonderful Ted talks video unblind my mind by Dr. Katherine Reed. She showed a connection between hidden msg and autism
    Symptoms. I didn’t really believe that such small amounts of any chemical could make such a difference, especially a naturally occurring one. I followed her advice anyway, just to see what would happen. I completely expected it to fail but it worked. I was never so happy to be wrong. Within 1 week our child who was terrified of bathing, was now happily splashing in a pool. He no longer had to do everything 4 x’s. Six months later he is making friends, catching up in school, sleeping at night, you can’t even tell he has autism. Instead of sticking out like a sore thumb, he is now just pleasantly quirky. We have had to make a lot of changes in our habits but it is so very worth it. Every so often my spouse takes him out and gets him something with “spices”, “flavorings” and even just straight msg in the ingredient list and every single time his symptoms return. His changes were so noticeable that a relative with schizophrenia asked what we were doing for him. We sent him a link to the video and he applied the information too. The voices he used to hear went from screaming to talking to not at all. His sleep improved too. It took months but now his diet controls what even years of medication could not (don’t worry, he still follows the doctors orders). I don’t need published studies or experiments with mice to realize that there certainly something to this. This is a very real problem and people need to know about this.

  32. Christian says

    Here is the full abstract of Additive-Induced Urticaria: Experience with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) at (You may not be able to access this if you don’t have a University subscription):

    —— In patients with chronic urticaria, the incidence of reactions to any additives, including monosodium glutamate (MSG), is unknown. Although many studies have investigated the association of additives and urticaria, most have been poorly designed. This study sought to determine the prevalence of reactions to additives, including MSG, in patients with chronic urticaria using a rigorous protocol. We studied 65 subjects (44 women, 21 men; ages 14–67). All had urticaria for >6 wk without discernible etiology. Subjects with active urticaria were studied while they were taking the lowest effective dose of antihistamine. Screening challenges to the 11 additives most commonly associated with exacerbations of chronic idiopathic urticaria were performed in a single-blind fashion. The dose of MSG given was 2500 mg. Skin scores were obtained to determine a positive reaction in an objective manner. Subjects with a positive screening challenge were rechallenged (at least 2 wk later) with a double-blind, placebo-controlled protocol as in-patients in our General Clinical Research Center. Two subjects had positive single-blind, placebo-controlled challenges, but neither had a positive double-blind, placebo-controlled challenge. We conclude, with 95% confidence, that MSG is an unusual (<3% at most) exacerbant of chronic idiopathic urticaria. —-

    So they tested 65 people who were already prone to allergic reactions (i.e looking for something in a specifically chosen sample which they hoped would find it) with 2.5g of MSG and TWO of them had a reaction which was not repeated in a follow up test. They therefore concede that less than 3% of people experience itching from MSG.

    You use this study to claim that MSG makes people itch. have you read the article. basically you are lying by claiming a study shows something the opposite to what it does.

    Not even bothering with the rest.

  33. Ashley August says

    Strange that Asians aren’t retarded and are the skinniest people on Earth since they put it in everything.

    Hey have you heard of dihydrogen monoxide?

  34. Ashley August says

    Also glutamate is natural in about most yummy things. While you’re avoiding glutamate you’ll have to avoid human breast milk, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, sea weed and soy sauce all where it occurs naturally.

  35. Ashley August says

    Glutamate is the chemical that makes the umami taste (you could say savory). All tastes have chemical associations. Sucrose makes things sweet, sodium chloride makes them salty, citric acid makes them sour.

    See, everything on Earth is made from only a handful of elements. Scientists like to give everything a big fancy name when really it’s just something normal. Sort of like dihydrogen monoxide, it’s killed people in large quantities. It’s called drowning.

  36. JKeen says

    This post is so bias and full of junk it’s ridiculous. I think I actually lost braincells while reading this. Or maybe it was the MSG? YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

  37. Theresa Anne Poe says

    What a wonderful article. After 29 years of getting a migraine,marching sounds in ears, after in 1981 getting samples of gum balls in the mail with the new “Equal” in it, eating Chinese food with MSG, diarrhea, lunch meat, Elkrich”, International Delight” coffee creamer, , I started eliminating everything and found out these culprits. I was amazed at the extinct of your list, and still get sick from some ordered Chinese dishes, even though it states on menu MSG-free. As a secretary/receptionist, cannot afford to run for the boarder at work. I do not go to the doctors, only once in 5 years for continued coughing from upper cold, as I talk on the phone at my job. My poor mother gets sick as well. Can’t wait to give her a copy of the list.

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