Lately, there has been a significant amount of discussion regarding MSG in both social media and news outlets. People are curious about what it is, whether it's truly harmful, and why it's associated with negative perceptions. Our goal is to equip you with all the necessary knowledge to make informed purchasing decisions.
What is MSG?
MSG, short for Monosodium Glutamate, is a flavor enhancer that is commonly used to add a savory flavor to many of our favorite soups and sauces. It is a sodium salt that is found in the very common amino acid glutamic acid. It’s originally fermented from starch, sugar cane, molasses, or corn but can also be found naturally in foods like tomatoes and cheese.
MSG Health Effects
When consumed in moderation, MSG is likely safe for most people . However, people have reported symptoms of headaches and nausea while others have been found to be allergic to MSG where symptoms are much more severe. It’s important to note that when considering foods at the grocery store, MSG is generally found in highly processed foods, which typically have a list of other potentially harmful ingredients, and little to no health benefits.
How Does MSG Affect the Body?
MSG, when broken down, is composed of sodium and glutamate. Glutamate is an amino acid that is naturally produced by the body and is naturally found in some foods. Since glutamate acts as a neurotransmitter, it stimulates taste receptors that enhance the savory taste in foods which leave you wanting more. There is also evidence that excessive amounts of MSG can lead to negative effects on the brain, especially in children. The more MSG you consume at at given time, the more likely you are to develop symptoms that were stated above: headaches and nausea. MSG can also increase blood pressure and the likelihood of heart disease due to the large amounts of sodium.
How Much MSG is Too Much?
Knowing how much MSG is safe to consume varies depending on weight, age, and health status. Most foods contain less than half of a gram, however, consuming more than 3 grams may lead to adverse effects such as headaches and nausea. Consulting with a healthcare professional is always advised when concerned with health conditions and the effects of MSG.
Why Trash Panda Rates MSG as “Potentially Harmful” in the App
We identify "potentially harmful" ingredients based on research that has identified poor health outcomes as a result of their consumption. These ingredients may be considered safe in the quantity consumed for most people, but we think everyone has the right to be aware of the potential negative affects of these ingredients on their health, both in the short term and in the long term. "Questionable" ingredients have not necessarily been proven harmful in scientific studies, but are ingredients you may want to be aware of in terms of total consumption - (like sugar, for example), or ingredients that are not whole food ingredients, but haven't yet been studied enough to be proven harmful. We want you to be aware of these ingredients, but aren't recommending that you avoid them entirely. MSG is flagged as “Potentially Harmful” because there are known side effects and symptoms when it is consumed. Some research studies state that if over-consumed, health risks like reproductive dysfunction, diabetes and metabolic syndrome could be at stake.
As with any ingredient flagged in Trash Panda, it is our goal to provide information and transparency based on the research available so that you can make a more informed decision. Ultimately, each person should decide for themselves what they choose to eat, and evaluate how it makes them feel.
Sources available on our MSG ingredients page.