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What’s up with MSG? - An Interesting Read


The history of MSG is riddled with misinformation and racial bias that has led to a stigmatization of Chinese cuisine. Also potentially more bland food.

Stock photo by Vecteezy

What is MSG?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Monosodium glutamate (which is the scientific name for MSG) is a flavor enhancer often added to, "restaurant foods, canned vegetables, soups, deli meats and other foods".

What some people may not know is that MSG is naturally present in a number of everyday foods! Glutamate is an amino acid used to make proteins both in food, and our body. It can be found in foods such as tomatoes, corn, green peas, grapes, mushrooms, and some cheeses like Parmesan and Roquefort.

Unveiling the Controversy

The history of MSG is entangled with a tale of misinformation and racial bias that has led to a stigmatization of Chinese cuisine.

In the 1960s, a Chinese American doctor named Robert Ho Man Kwok wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, describing symptoms he experienced after consuming Chinese food. He speculated that his symptoms might have been caused by alcohol, sodium, or MSG. This letter sparked a series of events that led to the creation of the infamous "Chinese restaurant syndrome" and the subsequent demonization of MSG.

However, there are reports that the letter by Dr Kwok may have been written as a joke by Dr Howard Steel. Nevertheless, this letter fueled the existing negative biases (which still exists today) against Chinese immigrants and their cuisine, resulting in unwarranted fear and misinformation surrounding MSG and Chinese culture.

Questioning the Claims

Over the years, numerous studies have examined the safety of MSG. Current scientific evidence contradicts earlier claims that MSG leads to illness and highlights the flaws in the research conducted at the time. For example, many of the studies lacked proper control groups, had small sample sizes, utilized flawed methodologies, administered extremely high doses unrelated to normal dietary intakes, or used routes of administration irrelevant to oral consumption (including injection)!


In conclusion, the controversy surrounding MSG stems from a combination of historical biases, misinformation, and flawed research. MSG, a flavor enhancer derived from naturally occurring glutamate, has been scientifically recognized as safe for consumption. It is possible to have a sensitivity to MSG but it is rare, and its symptoms are generally mild and temporary.

We are not experts, just thought the story was interesting. It is important to stay informed, read food labels, and make dietary choices based on individual preferences and needs.

It's crucial to challenge preconceived notions and examine scientific evidence to separate fact from fiction, promoting a more inclusive understanding of ingredients like MSG and appreciating the diversity of culinary traditions around the world!

Hope you found this as interesting as we did!!

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1 Comment

Sarabjeet B
Sarabjeet B
Jul 05, 2023


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