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Is MSG Bad for Pregnant Women?

by
author image Adam Cloe
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Is MSG Bad for Pregnant Women?
pregnant woman on couch Photo Credit Mark Bowden/iStock/Getty Images

During pregnancy you have to be careful about what you eat, particularly if the foods have additives. While pregnant, your body and the fetus are more sensitive to foods. MSG is a commonly used food additive that does not appear to cause any serious risks to your baby, but you may still want to avoid it during pregnancy as some people can have adverse reactions to this additive.

What is MSG?

MSG, also known as monosodium glutamate, is a substance derived from the amino acid glutamate. Monosodium glutatmate is often used as a food additive because it helps enhance the flavor of foods. This additive often gives foods a savory taste due to the addition of extra glutamate, which is also found in foods such as tomatoes, soybeans and seaweed. As a food additive, MSG is categorized as GRAS or "generally recognized as safe," by the Food and Drug Administration.

MSG Symptoms Complex

Some of the health concerns regarding MSG stems from an adverse reaction that some people have to this additive. The problem, known as MSG symptom complex, can cause heart palpitations, sweating, flushing, headaches, nausea, chest pain, weakness and numbness or tingling in your face and neck. However, no definitive link between MSG consumption and these symptoms has been identified. Consequently, if you are normally able to eat MSG without problems, eating it while pregnant is unlikely to trigger MSG-symptom complex.

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MSG and Sodium

MSG does not normally cause toxicity in the body and it is unlikely to affect the health of the fetus. However, you need to limit the amount of MSG that you consume because it adds large amounts of sodium to your diet and imparts no other nutritional value, according to Neesha Bukht Choksy, a nutrition consultant. Increased amounts of sodium in your diet can cause water retention and high blood pressure while pregnant.

Considerations

Food additives such as MSG do not need to be completely eliminated during pregnancy, but they often appear in fast food, processed meats, soups and canned vegetables. However, the FDA requires any foods that have MSG added to them to list MSG as an ingredient on the label. While you are pregnant you need to be mindful that what you eat affects the health of both you and your baby. There is no "recommended" amount of MSG, so instead pay attention to your sodium intake; you should aim for 2,400 milligrams of sodium each day, StorkNet states.

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