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The Real Truth About MSG Safety, With Science


The myth that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is somehow bad for you is one of those food misconceptions that just. Won't. Die.

Objections to this chemical range from the vague, arm-waving "unhealthy" label all the way to it being a damaging neurotoxin that makes you addicted to fast food.

It seems that no matter how many times experts communicate the truth about this harmless food additive, you'll still find plenty of savoury snacks and instant ramen in your local grocery store boasting their "MSG-free" status.

As a quick recap, here's what you need to know about MSG. Naturally occurring in many protein-rich foods is glutamic acid, a chemical widely used by living organisms to make proteins in the body.

When you dissolve this acid or one of its salts in water, you end up with negative ions called glutamates, responsible for that savoury umami flavour. Classic examples of naturally glutamate-rich foods are canned tomatoes, soy sauce, and aged cheese.

MSG attackers will claim it's not the same as the 'natural' stuff, but this is false: when dissolved, on a chemical level the flavour-enhancing action of MSG is exactly the same as that of the 'natural' glutamate in, say, tomato sauce.

Other nonsense levelled at MSG involves claims that it messes with your brain chemistry. While glutamate is a neurotransmitter, just because you eat it doesn't mean it will go straight to your brain.

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