Monosodium glutamate is a food additive that enhances the flavor of savory foods. It's added to a wide variety of foods and found naturally in foods such as tomatoes and cheese. Eaten in typical amounts, MSG is considered safe, according to the Food and Drug Administration. However, if you have certain conditions or are sensitive to MSG, you should avoid it. Read food labels and ask that restaurants prepare your food without MSG.
Migraines and Headaches
Generally speaking, if you suffer from migraines or headaches, it's possible for any food substance or additive to trigger an episode. It's a good idea to avoid MSG and other additives, at least temporarily, to help determine potential triggers. Researchers conducted a study to determine whether MSG had any effect on triggering headaches. The small study involved giving 14 men sugar-free soda with either MSG or a placebo. Researchers found MSG significantly increased headache reports, according to results published in the January 2010 issue of the journal "Cephalalgia."
Data suggests that it may be beneficial to avoid MSG if you have fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes widespread pain. Researchers conducted a study in fibromyalgia patients who also had irritable bowel syndrome. Patients were put on a diet that excluded MSG. Removing MSG significantly improve fibromyalgia symptoms. On a challenge diet, re-introducing MSG caused a return of symptoms with increased severity. The study was published in the November 2012 issue of the journal "Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology."
Chinese Restaurant Syndrome
Some individuals report a sensitivity to food additives such as MSG, identified as a cluster of symptoms known as Chinese restaurant syndrome. Symptoms may include chest pains, headache, sweating, flushing, numbness or a burning sensation around the mouth, and pressure on your face or the feeling of facial swelling.
Take steps to avoid MSG if you suspect that you have a sensitivity or want to avoid it because of medical conditions. The FDA requires manufacturers to label foods that contain added MSG. However, foods with naturally occurring MSG do not carry the same requirement. Some ingredients that contain naturally occurring MSG include hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts and protein isolate.
- United States Food and Drug Administration: Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Cephalalgia: Effect of Systemic Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) on Headache and Pericranial Muscle Sensitivity
- Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology: The Effect of Dietary Glutamate on Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Symptoms
- MedlinePlus: Chinese Restaurant Syndrome