Glutamic acids are a constant companion to many food products because they occur naturally in many different foods. A controversial form of glutamic acid that has been found in food products is monosodium glutamate acid. While previously before 1998 these glutamic acids were considered to be “spices and flavorings,” they are no longer able to be included under this food spectrum. Monosodium glutamate, or commonly referred to as MSG, has been a common ingredient in millions of kitchens around the world. It has come under great scrutiny lately, however, due to some of the health concerns that could arise from its consumption.
Many people believe that there exists a “MSG allergy.” This type of symptom usually occurs after eating foods that contain great amounts of MSG such as oriental foods. It is so common in Asian dishes that it has caught on the name “Chinese restaurant syndrome.”
Many researchers still debate what adverse effects MSG has on the body after consumption. There is still no clear link as to how MSG is connected to the reactions associated with its consumption. No tests done to establish the existence of the “MSG allergy” have been conclusive. Due to the inconclusiveness of the research, the FDA has yet to issue any sort of warning or ban against the use of MSG within food products.
It is a common belief among many within the United States and in other nations that all humans are somehow sensitive to MSG and therefore have an allergy to the glutamic acid. Many people attempt to undergo an anti-MSG diet. Many restaurants also advertise the lack of MSG present within their products in order to try to take advantage of the anti-MSG sentiment that has spread across the world.
Is there really anything to fear from MSG?
Allergic reactions are somewhat complex biological reactions. It is important to understand how they affect the body and how to deal with them to better understand MSG’s purported effects.
Food allergies are extremely common and can encompass items such as milk, shellfish, tree nuts, soy, peanuts, and eggs. Most of these items in one way or another contains protein. MSG is an amino acid present in many proteins, but it is non-bound. Large quantities of glutamine are present in items such as seafood, mushrooms, meat, and cheese and would have probably set off some type of reaction from their consumption.
MSG sensitivity tests tried to determine whether or not such sensitivity existed in humans. In 1986 tests were performed on self-proclaimed MSG-sensitive patients who then were asked to participate in a double-blind placebo experiment. Only two out of the six patients were observed having untoward effects towards MSG. Some of the symptoms they experienced were face tightness, warm ears, and tingling sensations.
American Immunologists that concluded MSG is unable to cause allergic reactions conducted another test in 2001. This is because MSG does not cause many adverse effects on the body. The responses of patients were, however, inconsistent.
The Clinical and Experimental Allergy medical journal pronounced on May 2009 that MSG is capable of producing asthma and rhinitis allergies in those who consumed products that contained MSG. They also proposed that MSG ingested without accompanying food created sensitivity, but MSG utilized as a food additive did not raise the possibility of experiencing an allergic reaction.
While many restaurants claim that they do not serve foods that contain MSG, they only do not include commercial MSG products such as Accent, Vetsin, or Ajinomoto. While preparing these products, it is quite likely that their seasoning or products simply contain or are made using MSG. MSG has also been known to be called by other names in order to hide it from scrutiny. Such names include natural flavoring, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, broth, and bouillon.
It is impossible for a person to never experience exposure to MSG. So many foods contain naturally occurring instances of glutamates such as ripe tomatoes, cheese, eggs, marmite, and thousands of other products.
Allergic Sensitivity and Intolerance
If you think you might be allergic to MSG, contact your doctor to determine if your symptoms fit. Symptoms include tingling, flushing, warm sensations in the face and neck, chest palpitations, nausea, rhinitis, wheezing, and vomiting. These symptoms can appear either after a few minutes from ingestion to an hour after consumption. Reactions and symptoms will vary depending on the individual experiencing the allergic reaction, sensitivity, or intolerance. Monosodium glutamate is more likely to produce an effect on an individual if they consume MSG in high doses without any food products.
Your physician should be able to verify whether or not you have an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance to MSG and establish what kind of reaction you have to it. They can also direct you to how to avoid foods that are prepared using MSG.