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Everyone should calm down about MSG, says science.
MSG stands for monosodium glutamate. So let’s break that down. We have sodium, i.e., salt—cool, I’m okay with that—and glutamate. Glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid found in most common foods including meat, dairy and vegetables (think tomatoes, walnuts, and parmesan cheese). Our bodies also produce our own glutamate as we prepare to metabolise food.
The much loved property of glutamate is that it enhances our tongue’s receptiveness to “umami”, one of the five basic tastes (alongside bitterness, sweetness, saltiness and sourness). Umami is a loanword from the Japanese language meaning “pleasant savoury taste”. So putting this all together, MSG is simply the naturally occurring amino acid glutamate in its sodium salt form (meaning, like salt, it is easier to sprinkle on food).
People who discredit it cite the study whereby mice suffered ill effects after having MSG injected into their brains. But duh. Almost anything can have a negative effect if consumed in too high a quantity, especially in this particular case, whereby a dose fit for a horse was injected directly into a small animal’s brain.
More humane, and more scientifically accurate studies, have since been conducted to analyse the effects of MSG. Double blind placebo studies on a large number of people, including 130 who identified as sensitive to MSG, have not been able to consistently trigger any reactions. Feeling sick after being starving and then stuffing your face with Chinese food does not necessarily demonstrate cause and effect.
As such, your author would like to add MSG to the list of things that some members of society believe they are better informed on than scientists. Note that this list also includes vaccinations and climate change. Cummon guys!