The Truth About MSG and Your Health

[ INTRO] Foodies can’t stop talking about umami — the savory taste that’s taking over the
culinary scene and which, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and
salty, is one of the five basic tastes that our tongues perceive. But if you’re a fan of Chinese takeout, you’ve been team umami from the get-go. That’s because MSG— that flavoring often associated with American
Chinese food— is umami in its purest form. And while you might have been told it’s
bad for you or causes the so-called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,”
science disagrees. As much as we associate MSG with Chinese food, there isn’t anything inherently Chinese,
or even Asian, about the compound. MSG stands for monosodium glutamate—the
sodium salt of glutamate— an amino acid that the human body can synthesize,
but that we also get from our food. Like other amino acids, glutamate is an important
building block for proteins, and it also helps nerve cells send signals
to other cells in the body— it’s the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter
in vertebrates. Since it’s so important for our bodies,
it’s not surprising we’ve evolved a taste for it. We have umami-specific receptors on our tongues
and in our stomachs, and these drive our love for foods that contain
glutamate like tomatoes, mushrooms, and aged cheeses. And umami-rich foods have been staples in
human diets for, well, /forever/. For example, historians call the concoction
known as Garum— an umami-filled sauce made from fermented
fish guts—the ketchup of ancient Rome. And we’ve been concentrating available,
naturally-occurring glutamate by sun-drying tomatoes and curing meats for
centuries, long before we knew what amino acids were. Even babies seem to like MSG, which makes
sense, because human milk is naturally rich in glutamate. But purified MSG wasn’t a thing until 1908, when a Japanese chemist realized that the
base made from kombu seaweed in his soup imparted a delicious flavor that wasn’t
one of the four previously-established tastes. He soon isolated the crystalline salt of glutamate
from the kelp, striking culinary gold. He called the crystals Ajinomoto, which means
essence of taste. And it wasn’t long before MSG became commercialized. In Asia, it was branded a staple for any modern
cook, and quickly became ubiquitous in kitchens
across Japan and China. By the early 1930s it had gone global, with
companies like Heinz and Campbell’s adding MSG to their products. And even the US military hopped on the MSG
train. During World War II, the army used the best
available food science to develop nutritionally dense rations with long shelf lives, called K-rations, but soldiers hated them because they were
super bland. So, in the late 1940s, they started adding
MSG to them, and suddenly, they weren’t so reviled. Our universal love for MSG isn’t just from
its savory goodness. Studies have shown that umami functions as
a flavor enhancer, creating a harmony between various flavors
and aromas and adding a sort of dimension to both— a phenomenon known as umami synergy. That sounds kind of nebulous, but consider a 2007 study published in the
European Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers as Oxford University had twelve
volunteers sip an umami drink made of water, MSG, and the nucleotide ii
while sniffing a vegetable aroma. On their own, both the umami drink and the
vegetable aroma were considered unpleasant and bland. But when combined, they were rated higher, and they just seemed to go together better
than a salty drink paired with the same smell. What was really telling, though, was that brain activity maps showed way more
neurons associated with flavor and pleasure lit up from the combo than would have been estimated by adding up
the isolated effects of each. Given all this, you might be wondering why
companies now proudly proclaim their food doesn’t contain MSG, or people say it makes them sick. Well, while our love of MSG comes from biology, a lot of people’s aversion to it seems to
have roots in something else entirely—racism. It all started with a 1968 letter to the editor
of the New England Journal of Medicine describing the author’s and his friends’
so-called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome following the consumption of Chinese food, including symptoms like heart palpitations,
generalized weakness, and radiating numbness. The idea took hold, spurring years of biased
science based on the flawed assumption that Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was a real
thing, and that MSG caused it. Subsequent animal studies seemingly confirmed
the idea, but these often consisted of injecting super concentrated doses of MSG directly into
creatures’ abdomens, which is not exactly a scientific approach to determining the effects
of MSG sprinkled into saucepans. More recent research on MSG aversion has taken
into account the xenophobia and racism that fueled it. And over the last 3 decades, a number of double-blinded,
placebo-controlled studies, including studies of subjects with reported sensitivity to MSG,
have failed to find a reproducible response to ingesting foods with MSG. A much more likely explanation for feeling
crummy after Chinese takeout is the nocebo effect, where you feel sick simply because
of the belief that something will make you ill. Fortunately, scientists are one step ahead
of the haters. Investigation into potential health benefits
of MSG is ongoing, with research suggesting it can help increase salivation and appetite
in the elderly, increase satiety and therefore reduce caloric intake in those trying to lose
weight, and help impart flavor while reducing overall dietary sodium. So yeah, MSG doesn’t deserve its toxic reputation. But you don’t need to avoid your favorite
restaurant just because they use a little. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! And an extra thank you to our patrons on Patreon. We wouldn’t be able to make education science
videos like this one without our patrons, so we really can’t thank all of you enough
for all your support. If you want to support our team or learn more
about our patron community, you can head on over to [ OUTRO ]

100 thoughts on “The Truth About MSG and Your Health

  1. This needs to be taught in schools. Yesterday.
    And all our grandparents need re educating. My grandfather almost had a heart attack when i said i was ordering a bag of MSG.

  2. At 0:44, they say that MSG is a different chemical to the naturally occurring one. Saw this in other videos too. If it isn't the same chemical, then why is it spoken of as the same?
    Does the body turn it isn't the sodium salt version of glutamate? But it doesn't say that, neither have other videos on it.

    I hear that on studies about it at end of video, but I notice a kind of "sounding scientific" in this video while at the same time overlooking this.

    And then there is the "everything that could possibly be racist, must be racist" ideology here too. Maybe he just actually had a headache & was not used to the MSG or high salt when dehydrated?

  3. The circumventricular organs are capable of allowing MSG to perforate into sensitive brain regions such as the hippocampus and lateral habenula in early brain development (4-9 years old). Despite the blood brain barrier controlling neural glutamatergic uptake from the blood, the circumventricular organs have been shown in-vitro to expose neural tissue to blood concentrations of glutamate potentially resulting in excitotoxicity in those regions in addition to future dietary sensitivity to the substance. All the brain regions exposed via the circumventricular organs are implicated in a variety of mental disorders such as bipolar, ADHD, schizophrenia etc.

  4. no such thing as xenophobia or foreignx or not, cepux idts, do,be, can do, be any no matter what and any be perfect

  5. Msg causes terrible stomach upset for me,like it can last for days ,painful bowel movements , dizziness,nausea ,like I was poisoned,the biggest trigger are potato chips

  6. Msg is amazing but just like with everything very good , if you consume to much guess what … it starts to get bad for you.

  7. Like fat free or reduced fat how will you make it taste better hmm probably sugar which is just as addictive as cocaine and herion.

  8. I sometimes got sick going to a Chinese restaurant. But at the same time at home I could sprinkle MSG in dishes without effect. So it is much more likely that I am allergic to some obscure ingredient that was added at the restaurant. I'm betting the same things happens to other people and MSG is just a scapegoat.

    I think american not like msg becauses it use for make bad food quality taste good but not good for stomach. Is racism flavor enhancing spices?

  10. You are a brainwasher. You aren't a doctor. It's so basic for a medical practitioner to advice their patients to avoid MSG for the sake of prolonging their health. Any licensed doctors will tell you to avoid MSG. They are not being racist. They are just being logical and professional.

  11. Considering a Japanese scientist discovered MSG & the fact it's heavily used in Asian foods, yes, it's a big Asian commodity.

  12. There are as much MSG in japanese cuisines. The blame on chinese food is probably more of a result of cheap and affordable chinese fastfood culture plus politics, while japanese foods are mostly more expensive. I know of some Japanese youtubers that even directly include umami(fancy term for MSG) in their recipes.

  13. The damage done to those animals was BRAIN damage. MSG is converted to an toxin that stimulates the brain. That causes brain damage.
    You have to eat a lot of it to show this effect but this guy doesn't seem to understand why MSG has a bad reputation.

  14. I'm from chinese descent and lately my son and I've been having the worst headaches ever after eating in my favorite Chinese restaurant. I switched restaurant same thing. Until I went to a non msg chinese buffet and nothing happened. I started paying attention to the msg controversy and recognised my symptoms in other people's stories. I think we've developped our sensitivity over time. I'm happy there are now chinese or other type of restaurants that offer non-msg meals so I can enjoy my chinese restaurants.
    I just need to add here that the same happened to my son after eating pizza from a certain pizzeria. He ended up saying that pizza gave him headaches which made us all laugh, until it happened to me with the chinese restaurant I liked because the taste there was just sooooo amazing. It all makes sense now !
    I think high dose of msg in one meal is to blame for the headaches, not just msg as from what I was told our own body produces some as well.

  15. Host in video states: Studies showed it is safe and good for you.. ….
    History: Studies also showed dioxins or smoking tobacco was also safe and good for you ….. until millions got sick and died decades later and then "oops, those studies were wrong, sorry, its actually not good for you".

  16. I am from Vietnam and i ate food with MSG growing up. I am fine and healthy!
    If you told my mom “msg is toxic” she would be like “it’s all in your head”

  17. Glutamate found in food is not monosodium glutamate.

    "There are two common forms of glutamic acid, L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid. L-glutamic acid found in protein is referred to as 'bound' or 'protein bound' glutamic acid. In real, natural foods amino acids are rarely free. Rather, they are linked or bound in long chains to other amino acids in peptides or proteins. D-glutamic acid 'outside of protein' or 'free glutamic acid' is artificially and chemically produced outside of the body. This is what is known as monosodium glutamate or MSG.

    Asian cultures have used sea vegetables to enhance the flavor of food for centuries, especially kombu. Kombu is traditionally used to make broth called 'dashi' and more recently kombu extract. Though both are sources of glutamic acid, kombu extract is a concentrated form. Keep in mind, though, that this glutamic acid is 'bound to protein', L-glutamic acid. Dashi and extract is simply kombu simmered in water to extract the flavor essence of glutamic acid. Kombu is one of the lowest sources of glutamic acid, if you look at the above chart, compared to other high protein foods.

    In 1907 a Japanese chemist, Kikunae Ikeda, was experimenting with food flavors in a quest for what the Japanese consider the perfectly balanced combination of flavors, 'umami'. Professor Ikeda captured what he believed was umami by isolating glutamic acid from seaweed and other plants such as wheat, beets, corn, and molasses. In 1909 the Ajinomoto Corporation of Japan patented it as monosodium glutamate or MSG and sold it in the U.S. as Accent, a flavor enhancer. This chemical is not food like kombu sea vegetable, but rather a toxic concoction and excitotoxin.

    When we eat food containing protein, our body breaks it down or hydrolyzes it in the stomach and lower intestines through the action of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes. In a healthy person, the body controls the amount of glutamic acid that it takes from protein. Excess glutamic acid is not stored by the body, preventing toxicity. It is passed off as waste. Utilized this way, glutamic acid from eating protein is harmless.

    In the chemical MSG manufacturing plant, however, the bound glutamic acid in the above mentioned foods is broken down or made 'free of protein' by various processes (hydrolyzed, autolyzed, modified or fermented with strong chemicals, acids, bacteria, or enzymes, which are often genetically modified) and refined to a white crystal powder that resembles salt or sugar. Chemical MSG contains 78% glutamate, 12.2% sodium, and 9.6% water. This chemical form is known as D-glutamic acid. It usually contains some L-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid, and other contaminants. This factory made version causes serious reactions. From our research there is no D-glutamic acid, pyroglutamic acid or other contaminants in the protein found in plants and animals, only L-glutamic acid. When pure, manufactured, MSG is ingested a rapid effect occurs from the glutamate. This 'free of protein' glutamic acid, or glutamate unlike the naturally occurring 'protein bound' glutamate, is not attached to other amino acids. The normal digestive disassembly process does not happen because there are no 'peptide' bonds to slow the process. The sudden increase in free glutamic acid is then rapidly absorbed and can raise blood levels of glutamate eight to ten times causing toxicity.

    Chemically produced MSG is found in a very wide variety of foods both in the supermarket and in natural food stores. It may not be, and commonly is not, declared on the label because it is a "processing aid" used in an ingredient. When MSG is used as a processing aid, it is not required by the FDA to be declared on the label. MSG is in hydrolyzed animal, vegetable (textured vegetable protein TVP), and milk protein. Calcium and sodium cassinate are by-products of hydrolyzed milk products. It is found in maltodextrin from processed corn and cornstarch. Bouillon cubes, autolyzed yeast extracts and chemically manufactured malt syrups contain small amounts of it. Whey protein, protein isolates, smoke flavorings, barbecue chips, and cheap and imitation soy sauces contain it. It is also found in chemically made gelatins and even in children's vaccinations.

    We assure you that Eden Foods does not use the chemical MSG in any EDEN Beans, EDENSOY, or any food item that we offer. There is much confusion, contradictory information and studies in the public domain. Most of it skewed or flawed, having been paid for by the manufactures of MSG. Commonly documents are incorrect in referring to chemical MSG as L-glutamate, when in fact it is D-glutamate. Eden Foods realizes there is a real danger in consuming MSG. The following websites may give you some reassurance regarding natural glutamic acid found in foods and its difference from chemical MSG:


  18. Racism? Really?? The video gave no evidence for this claim. Just because it was called China Restaurant Syndrome doesn't mean it was racism.

  19. Can you guys PLEASE make a video about instant noodles? I'm so tired of listening to people believing that it takes your body a month to digest them. I can't find anything out there that disproves all this nonsense.

  20. No matter how many informative videos about MSG these science channels put up, they won't be able to hold a candle to the facts most people have acquired by reading on obscure article 10 years ago that had no sources.

  21. MSG is in more things than just Chinese food and American junk food. More restaurants than not use MSG in their food. Pretty much all packaged food not labeled MSG free uses MSG, and even then, those typically use other glutamates which the body sees as something pretty much identical to MSG. This includes soups, canned or frozen vegetables, any type of sauce or condiment, and all sorts of food that "MSG sensitive" people are fine with eating. Unless you're a raw vegan, you're pretty much eating MSG daily.

  22. I my local supermarket, foods with msg are always lower price simply because EVERYONE is convinced it's bad for you. Don't mind mind if I do 😀 and thx for lower prices.

  23. MSG allergies are a real thing. MSG really does make some people sick. It’s not racism or placebo/nocebo. MSG allergies are a real thing that negativity affects certain people.

  24. But wouldn't an excessive amount of glutamate cause adverse reaction? The few times I've been to a high-end restaurant my intestines have resented it a few hours later and the common thread i see would be excessive amounts of glutamate.

  25. Ya'll are wrong about MSG. I have an MSG sensitivity and I don't have to know that there is MSG in something for me to feel the effects within 24 hours of consuming it. There have been more recent studies done that validate those of us that have this sensitivity. You shouldn't make videos about things you don't know about.

  26. I call TOTAL SHENANIGANS on this video. Let DOCTORS & NUTRITIONISTS speak, not a GOTDAMN commentator. MSG wreaks havoc on he body and nervous system. No one needed these food additives or chemicals 60 years ago, and food was food and delicious. This food today is DEATH.

  27. So I get terrible diarrhea and a raging headache after I eat things with MSG because I am a racist?? Not sure I'm following this "science."

  28. Ah so MSG is similar to artificial sweeteners in which biased data (with a an extra helping of racism in this case ugh ) and the ‘I heard it was bad somewhere and have blindly believed it since’ mentally has robbed us of a useful tool for health and food management

  29. Dafaq. I always thought MSG can cause cancer. Well not that I care and think much of it anyway, given no one really bother replacing it in our diet anyway at home. Atleast i know now i wont be dying anytime soon lmao.

  30. There’s a big reason msg isn’t good, that wasn’t mentioned. Similar to sugar, MSG spikes blood sugar and insulin pretty heavily. Repeatedly spiking both of these often over a long period of time is bad news for anyone. It will in time cause insulin resistance which causes you to be fat among many other issues. Eventually it can even lead to type 2 diabetes. Plus having your spike and then drop constantly really throws off your natural appetite and will make you hungry. Not to mention it causes a very unnatural palatability of many foods. It could make you heavily crave something like cheap microwave ramen noodles, which are pretty much devoid of vitamins or minerals. Continually doing this could lead to deficiencies.

  31. It's been a while since I really got off on somebody but you turkeys deserve it. YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FREQUENTLY VERY IGNORANT. You believe these biased studies. You didn't deal with racrmic MSG where people consume 50% right-handed msg which is a poison. And you don't recognize that you are fighting a huge industry with tons of money to bribe with or for control by lawyers. What counts with people is their personal experience. And you didn't deal with the MSG that used to be in Denny's pancakes we were told by the staff. And you haven't tested either me or my wife. I get sick from too much msg on a steak (later I had to give up steak due to an acquired beef allergy but that doesn't negate earlier experience) and we found out about the pancakes by accident when my wife reacted unexpectedly). You turkeys are trying to tell us it's all in our heads. That we are psycho. Like what rubbish. I well know that we make our own left-handed MSG but I also know it's a very powerful neurotransmitter. Just maybe people's neurochemicals get thrown out of balance when consuming too much of it orally. Like maybe their glutamate mop-up system doesnt work as well as others? Anyway you really smoke my kippers with your ignorance.

  32. MSG itself is not that bad, but when it goes hand in hand with oily/greasy food like Chinese cuisine, the result will be quiet bad. Eating Panda Express food certainly often causes stomach upset, indigestion, headache or nausea vomiting. It's the oily/grease food in addition to MSG, which clearly explained the complaining of "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome".

  33. MSG itself is not that bad, but when it goes hand in hand with oily/greasy food like Chinese cuisine, the result will be quiet bad. Eating Panda Express food certainly often causes stomach upset, indigestion, headache or nausea vomiting. It's the oily/grease food in addition to MSG, which clearly explained the complaining of "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome".

  34. Aji-no-moto, pure isolated MSG is sold as a condiment and kitchen staple all over Peru, due to the large Japanese colony there who introduced it, as well as an important influence of Chinese and Japanese cuisines on Peruvian food… I grew up with it at home, and today it’s used in lots of recipes as a key ingredient, revered as a “secret” trick for perfect taste, and loved by many… and after ALL the years it’s been around, never have we ever heard of it being bad, of anyone getting sick or being allergic or intolerant, and much less of the so called CRS… 🧐

  35. i am dissapointed that this video doesnt include the MSG cause cancer study and the truth or false behind it, in south east asia MSG have bad reputation because people said it caused cancer,

  36. This is great, I just told my dad the other day that folks we know that claim an MSG allergy must be racist because MSG is not bad for you. Thanks for having my back SciShow!

  37. What I heard is msg causes an insulin spike, which would have nothing to do with racism. The addicting taste is besides the point.

  38. You're only talking about the positive paste benefits of MSG there are serious negative health consequences be eating a significant amount of MSG.

  39. I can use MSG with food but MSG always gives my wife super migraine headache and vomit. My food is MSG free because of wife.

  40. Why do you say the aversion to msg was "racism" – ridiculous. The same reaction could have been elicited if the food had been, French, Italian or any other nationality. This channel is too "woke".

  41. my step father and his mother were both sensitive to MSG. She was for a long time and he started being sensitive to it in his 50's. I have never had a problem with it other than I heard it's bad for me so I reasonably avoid it (though there are some things that you can't get at the Asian market without it so I have never stopped eating it completely).

  42. I am allergic to MSG, and I have been so since my youth. My response to MSG was not too extreme when I was younger. But, as I aged, the response became profound. I do have heart palpitations, severe dizziness and shortness of breath. I feel faint, and have in fact passed out. And it takes as much as 24-hours for me to recover. So don't tell me I am being racist and that MSG is healthy for me!!!

  43. WHAT? But I had severe headaches from SOMETHING after eating a delicious Chinese dinner, and I certainly am NOT a “ racist” or, as you put it, a HATER!

  44. "Racism?" So those who are concerned about the health implications of a food/ingredient, are just thinking badly of a people's ethnicity? If you're afraid of drinking tap water in India, you must hate Indians then?

  45. People do have sensitivities to MSG. My uncle would get a rash. I thought it was psychosomatic so, i sprinkled a little msg on his food without his knowing. He itched for 2 days. So, glad i didn't kill him. Dad wouldn't have understood.

  46. I always thought my feeling ill after eating Chinese food was down to the oil used to fry it. I have a known problem with oil due to a diagnosed medical condition.

  47. In college one winter 30 years ago, a friend made a huge pot of Matzo ball soup, and I must have had a gallon of it. It wasn't my first time to enjoy Matzo ball soup, but I wasn't that familiar with it. I must have been hungry, and it was hot and savory and I really liked it that cold winter night. Afterwards I had to do some geo-chemistry lab work (all microscope work on mineral specimens, no actual "chemicals"), and I got one of the worst case of jitters that I ever had! 😲 Got a little queasy and dizzy. But, next day I was fine. Afterwards I discovered that Matzo ball soup is loaded with MSG. I had no idea that there was any MSG in the stuff. So, yeah, a moderate dose of MSG is probably fine for most, but it is possible to get to much of a good thing. 😉
    This video taught me that glutamate is an excitory neurotransmitter, which agrees with my experience of getting the jitters.

  48. In the damn msg study, those “intelligent” scientists injected an almost fatal amount of msg into the rat test subject. Then they report saying that the mouse seem to become dumber, lost memory and not behaving normal anymore.

    Well, sirs, I humbly ask you to inject an insane amount of salt or sugar into your digest system and see if you can stand on your feet.

  49. Well… I am allergic to MSG (the doctor told me after being swollen, vomiting and so on), but that doesn't mean it's bad for everyone. People are allergic to eggs and they're still delicious…

  50. MSG makes you hungry. I was eating a lot of food but starving shortly after. I also had stomach aches that were killing me. As soon as I quit MSG, I wasn't starving all the time and the stomaches went away.

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