Sunday, April 18, 2010

Return of the MSG!

     A couple years ago, I posted a blog about MSG ("Why the Attacks on MSG?", November 9th, 2008).  I didn't actually write anything, I simply copied and pasted an article I had found on the internet, which stated why there is an MSG (Mono-sodium Glutamate) scare in America and some other countries, and the fact that there is no actual health detriment to consuming MSG unless you are intolerant or allergic to it.  Despite my complete lack of opinions in the original blog, the blog in fact sparked an interesting debate about the advantages and drawbacks of MSG in the comments section.  I was even graced by a comment from the Notorious MSG, currently my favorite rap group.  ("Seriously, everybody, what's the big deal, anyway?")

     I have since been rather obsessed with MSG.  Perhaps it is merely my love for the Notorious MSG, but I champion MSG as a flavor enhancer.  I have actually scourged the entire Trader Joe's store looking for MSG, and have found that they hawk not a single item of merchandise that sports MSG in its ingredients list.  Yet they hawk a great number of items that sport sea salt on their ingredients lists, which is far less healthy and flavorful than MSG!

     Advertisements used by companies such as Progresso soups (and Campbell's for that matter) are targeted toward a mass of people who are ignorant, and they use that ignorance to their advantage.  Because some food critic in 1968 stated that the MSG in his Chinese food caused him to have great discomfort, Americans have been targeting MSG as evil ever since.

     The fact of the matter is, however, that a 1995 study showed that "MSG was safe for most people when 'eaten at customary levels'. However, it also said that, based on anecdotal reports, some people may have an MSG intolerance which causes 'MSG symptom complex' and/or a worsening of asthmatic symptoms."  (^  Furthermore, it has been found SINCE that study, that this 'MSG intolerance' is also completely fictional.  According to later independent studies, "Subsequent research found that while large doses of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in individuals who believe that they react adversely to MSG, the frequency of the responses was low and the responses reported were inconsistent, not reproducible, and were not observed when MSG was given with food."  (^ a b Geha RS, Beiser A, Ren C, et al. (April 2000). "Review of alleged reaction to monosodium glutamate and outcome of a multicenter double-blind placebo-controlled study". J. Nutr. 130 (4S Suppl): 1058S–62S. PMID 10736382.  Finally, the clincher:  "While many people believe that MSG is the cause of these symptoms, a statistical association has not been demonstrated under controlled conditions, even in studies with people who were convinced that they were sensitive to it."  (^ a b Geha RS, Beiser A, Ren C, et al. (April 2000). "Review of alleged reaction to monosodium glutamate and outcome of a multicenter double-blind placebo-controlled study". J. Nutr. 130 (4S Suppl): 1058S–62S. PMID 10736382.,  ^ a b Tarasoff L., Kelly M.F. (1993). "Monosodium L-glutamate: a double-blind study and review". Food Chem. Toxicol. 31 (12): 1019–1035. doi:10.1016/0278-6915(93)90012-N. PMID 8282275.,  ^ Freeman M. (October 2006). "Reconsidering the effects of monosodium glutamate: a literature review". J Am Acad Nurse Pract 18 (10): 482–6. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7599.2006.00160.x. PMID 16999713.,  ^ Walker R (October 1999). "The significance of excursions above the ADI. Case study: monosodium glutamate". Regul. Toxicol. Pharmacol. 30 (2 Pt 2): S119–S121. doi:10.1006/rtph.1999.1337. PMID 10597625.)  (That's 4, count them FOUR citations!)

     So why are Americans so afraid of MSG?  Well my opinion is that it's just another example of how the media uses our ignorance to propagate their own goals.  So now my own bottle of AC'CENT is demonized, though I use it in most of my cooking.  Chinese restaurants are demonized for using MSG, though it makes all their food taste better.  Doritos and Fritos and even Taco Works are demonized for making their chips more delicious with MSG.  Soups are demonized if they used MSG instead of the less healthful sea salt (AC'CENT contains 60% less sodium than salt, according to the packaging), but have you ever tasted a chicken noodle soup or a cream of mushroom soup that contains no MSG?  It's flipping disgusting!

     So go ahead everybody.  Even if you think you're allergic.  Go eat some MSG!  And listen to the Notorious MSG!  (but if you're going to do the latter, watch out for rectal prolapse...)



  1. i LOVE MSG, i need to get me some, i remember seeing it in my Grandma's pantry, thinking it was contraband or something. no wonder i like Taco Works so much...that was totally a great blog.
    Kudos to you Nathaniel.

  2. Oddly I am allergic to Mrs. Dash which says it contains no MSG. I never understood quite what the big deal was with MSG. It makes everything taste better.

  3. I cannot recall a time where I've knowingly used MSG but must have at some points or another. I will need to re-introduce it to myself and see how much I like it! I love Taco Works chips! Being a cook in a restaurant over the years, I remember the MSG scare when it hit California big time and was a word to never be uttered in a commercial kitchen as it would sour the faces of our paying customers. I didn't know what it was and didn't care to find out and became in this way ignorant like the masses to the truth behind this flavor enhancer. But thanks to you Nathaniel, I too will scourge markets for a can of ACCENT! Though I must say I am loving Kosher salt right now and am not at all that concerned with any health risks or drawbacks!