Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is sodium salt of non-essential amino acid, glutamic acid also known as Ajinomoto. MSG contains 78% of glutamic acid, 22% of sodium and water.
Glutamic acid was first isolated as pure substance in 1866 by the German chemist Ritthausen from wheat gluten.
In year 1908, a chemist from Japan, Kikunae Ikeda discovered its flavour-enhancing properties and patented the process of isolating monosodium glutamate from wheat flour. Its commercial production started in year 1909 with trade name Ajinomoto (meaning at the origin of flavour). Now glutamic acid or Ajinomoto is prepared from several sources such as wheat gluten, soybean meal, casein, and beet sugar.
The sodium salt of glutamic acid, or MSG is used with additional salt in Chinese soups, Thai and Japanese foods, dishes as additive to improve flavour.
Use of Monosodium glutamate
MSG is used as common flavour enhancer in various canned food and Chinese foods.
Potential side effects
- MSG has been claimed to be the cause of a range of adverse reactions. A person sensitive to MSG may develop these allergic reactions.
- Chinese restaurant syndrome (burning/tingling sensations, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness)
- Bronchoconstriction, asthma
- Headaches, Numbness/tingling, Flushing
- Muscle tightness and generalised weakness
- Urticarial, atopic dermatitis, ventricular arrhythmia, neurotoxic effects
- Altered the liver and kidney functions
- Abdominal discomfort
There are various studies done on MSG to find its damaging effect on health. Such studies have confirmed the link between MSG intake and side effects such as headaches, dizziness etc. It is also responsible for weight gain.
When MSG tested on male wistar rats, it has shown toxic effect on the testis by causing a significant oligozoospermia (low sperm count) and increase abnormal sperm morphology in a dose-dependent fashion.
Warning: Although MSG is listed as safe by The Food and Drug Administration but its use should be avoided in pregnancy.