For over 100 years, MSG has been used safely and effectively in food. A great deal of scientific research has been undertaken about its role, its benefits and its safety.

This research has been reviewed by scientists and regulators around the world including experts of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, the US Food and Drug Administration and the regulatory authorities in more than 100 countries. All of the bodies have found MSG to be safe.

Monosodium glutamate brings nothing new to the diet; it is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid that occurs naturally in protein-containing foods such as meat, vegetables and dairy products.

Glutamate added to food as seasoning represents a very small proportion of the glutamate we consume each day as part of a normal diet. The glutamate naturally present in food and the glutamate derived from MSG are identical and our bodies treat glutamate in exactly the same way, irrespective of its source. Furthermore, our bodies produce much more glutamate than we get from our diet.

This section is designed to provide information on some of the major studies undertaken on MSG. We have divided the MSG research into:

Benefits of MSG

Umami and food palatability

Purpose:
To review the key qualitative and quantitative features of umami.
Research Institution:
Faculty of Applied Bioscience, Department of Nutritional Science, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technical Committee, Umami Manufacturers Association of Japan, Tokyo, Japan
Journal:
Journal of Nutrition. 2000; 130: 921S-926S (Supplement); full study
Scientist(s):
Shizuko Yamaguchi and Kumiko Ninomiya
Study Design:
“The key qualitative and quantitative features of umami are reviewed in this paper. The continued study of the umami taste will help to further our general understanding of the taste process and improve our knowledge of how the taste properties of foods contribute to appropriate food selection and good nutrition.”
Conclusion:
Umami is the term that identifies the taste of glutamate, and is an important taste element in foods. It is the main taste in the Japanese stock “dashi,” and in other stocks in the West, such as bouillon. The umami taste has characteristic qualities that differentiate it from other tastes, including a taste-enhancing synergism between two umami compounds, L-glutamate and 5′-ribonulceotides. Because of their unique time-taste characteristics, umami substances may play an unusually important role in generating the prolonged taste to a meal and thus in determining its overall enjoyment.

MSG and regulation of post-meal energy intake

Purpose:
The objective of the study was to investigate the effect of MSG in a vegetable soup on subsequent energy intakes as well as food selection in overweight and obese adult women without eating disorders.
Research Institution:
North American Research and Innovation Center, Ajinomoto North America, Inc.
Journal:
British Journal of Nutrition. 2016; 115: 176-184; abstract
Scientist(s):
Takashi Miyaki, Toshifumi Imada, Susan Shuzhen Hao and Eiichiro Kimura
Study Design:
A total of 68 overweight and obese women (BMI range: 25.0–39.9 kg/m2), otherwise healthy, were recruited. A fixed portion (200 ml) of control vegetable soup or the same soup with added MSG (0.5 g/100 ml) was provided 10 minutes before an ad libitum lunch and an ad libitum snack in the mid-afternoon. The control soup had equivalent amount of Na to the soup with added MSG. Energy intakes at the ad libitum lunch and ad libitum snack time after the soup preload were assessed using a randomized, double-blind, two-way cross-over design.
Results:
“The soup with MSG in comparison with the control soup resulted in significantly lower consumption of energy at lunch. The addition of MSG in the soup also reduced energy intake from high-fat savoury foods. The soup with MSG showed lower but no significant difference in energy intake at mid-afternoon. The addition of umami seasoning MSG in a vegetable soup may decrease subsequent energy intake in overweight and obese women who do not have eating disorders.”


Read more about
how MSG increases satiety resulting in reduced energy intake at the following meal.

MSG effect on appetite and gut signaling

Purpose:
This study investigated the effects of adding monosodium glutamate (MSG) to carrot soup with or without whey protein, on subjective appetite, food intake and satiety hormones in healthy young men.
Research Institution:
University of Toronto, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Toronto, ON
Journal:
Appetite. 2017; 120: 92-99; doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.08.020. abstract
Scientist(s):
Anderson GH, Fabek H, Akilen R, Chatterjee D, Kubant R
Study Design:
Two experiments were conducted using a repeated-measures, within-subject, crossover design. In exp-1 healthy young men (n=28) consumed water alone (500mL), or carrot soup (500g) with or without MSG (5g, 1% w/w) or whey protein enriched (36g) carrot soup with or without MSG (5g, 1% w/w). Subjective appetite was measured post-treatment and food intake measured at a meal at 120 minutes. In exp-2 (n=15) the same treatments except for water were used. In addition to subjective appetite and food intake, blood glucose, insulin, glucose like peptide 1 (GLP-1), C-peptide and ghrelin were measured.
Results:
“Adding MSG alone, or in combination with whey protein, to carrot soups did not affect FI [food intake]. However, MSG increased fullness and reduced desire to eat, as well as subjective appetite.” The researchers also noted that when added to protein MSG decreased blood glucose and increased insulin and C-peptide, offering support for the hypothesis that MSG in the gut signals protein consumption.

Intensification of sensory properties of foods for the elderly

Purpose:
To investigate whether the sensory enhancement of foods with flavors and MSG can improve food palatability and acceptance in older people.
Research Institution:
Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham
Journal:
Journal of Nutrition. 2000; 130: 927S-930S (Supplement); full study
Scientist(s):
Susan S. Schiffman
Study Design:
The researchers undertook five separate studies to demonstrate the sensory effects of eating flavor-enhanced food compared with eating unenhanced food in samples of healthy and sick older people.
Results:
Taste and smell losses in the elderly can reduce appetite and lead to inadequate dietary intake. The five studies conducted found that the amplification of flavor and taste can improve food palatability and acceptance, increase salivary flow and immunity, and reduce oral complaints in both sick and healthy older people.

Sauces and seasoning (including glutamate rich gravies and seasoning mixes) can increase an older person's food intake

Purpose:
To investigate and compare the effects on food intake when seasonings and sauces are added to an older person’s meal.
Research Institution:
School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast
Scientist(s):
Rachael L. Best and Katherine M. Appleton
Journal:
Appetite. February 2011; 56(1):179-82; abstract
Study Design:
18 free-living older individuals consumed three meals on three separate occasions: one with seasoning, one with sauce, and one without seasoning or sauce. The intakes of energy, protein, carbohydrate and fat were compared.
Conclusion:
Significantly greater amounts of energy, protein and fat were consumed in the meals with seasoning and meals with sauce compared to meals served plain, with no differences between seasoning and sauce conditions. Effects support a role for flavor in increasing food intake in older individuals.

To investigate the effect of glutamic acid on blood pressure

Purpose:
To investigate the effect of glutamic acid on blood pressure
Research Institution:
Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago
Scientist(s):
J Stamler, I Brown, ML Daviglus, Q Chan, H Kesteloot, H Ueshima, L Zhao and P Elliott
Results Published:
‘Glutamic Acid, the Main Dietary Amino Acid, and Blood Pressure – The INTERMAP Study (International Collaborative Study of Macronutrients, Micronutrients and Blood Pressure), Circulation – Journal of the American Heart Association, July 2009; abstract
Study Design:
4680 men and women 40 to 59 years of age from 17 random population samples in Japan, China, the United Kingdom and the United States were surveyed.
Study Results:
Glutamic acid, which is present in vegetable protein, can help to lower blood pressure. The study found that the more dietary glutamic acid that the subjects consumed, the more their blood pressure fell.

Improving sensory quality of lower sodium foods by using MSG to reduce salt

Purpose:

To examine the effects of sodium reduction and flavor enhancers on the sensory profile of popular Asian foods (chicken rice and mee soto broth).

Research Institution:

Singapore Polytechnic, Food Innovation and Resource Centre, Singapore

Scientist(s):

Jasmine Leong, Chinatsu Kasamatsu, Evelyn Ong, Jia Tse Hoi and Mann Na Loong

Results Published:

Food Science & Nutrition 2016; 4(3): 469–478; doi: 10.1002/fsn3.308; full study

Study Design:

The ‘difference-from-control’ test was the method adopted in this study involving 24–29 trained panelists.

Study Results:

According to the study authors: “By adding flavor enhancers into the 40%-reduced salt chicken rice recipes, the perception of saltiness was significantly increased when compared to 22% and 31% sodium reduced recipes. Similarly for mee soto broth, there was a significant increase in perception of chicken flavor, umami taste, mouthfeel sensation, and sweet taste with a decrease in the perception of sour and bitter taste when compared to control. By adding 0.40% MSG into the 40%-reduced salt recipes, the perception of saltiness was maintained when compared with control.”

Improving consumer preference for lower sodium foods by using MSG to reduce salt

Purpose:

To evaluate sensory characteristics of a food with salt replacements. This study aimed to optimize a low sodium salts mix using sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and monosodium glutamate to the development of shoestring potatoes with low sodium content and high sensory quality, through mixture design and response surface methodology.

Research Institution:

Dept. of Food Science and Dept. of Agriculture, Federal Univ. of Lavras, Brazil

Scientist(s):

Heverton Carrara Pereira, Vanessa Rios de Souza, Natalia Csizmar Azevedo, Daniela Maria Rodrigues, Cleiton Antonio Nunes, and Ana Carla Marques Pinheiro

Results Published:

Journal of Food Science. 2015; Vol. 80, No. 6: S1399-S1403; doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12884; abstract

Study Design:

“The salts mix that promotes the same salting power and similar sensory acceptability that the shoestring potatoes with 1.6% sodium chloride (ideal concentration) and at the same time promotes the greatest possible reduction of sodium, about 65%, should provide the composition as follows: 0.48% of sodium chloride, 0.92% of potassium chloride, and 0.43% of monosodium glutamate.”

The test was conducted with 100 potato products consumers (55 females and 45 males) aged between 18 and 35 years, presented monadically to consumers in a balanced manner.

Study Results:

According to the study authors: “Sodium chloride has several important functions in the food, influencing their sensory characteristics, functional properties, and microbiological safety. Thereby reducing sodium in processed foods becomes a major challenge. From this work it was verified that the use of salts mix of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and monosodium glutamate is a relevant alternative to reduce the sodium content of foods, making them healthier and maintaining its sensory quality.”

Recent related research, published in Food Science & Nutrition (July 2017): “Monosodium Glutamate as a Tool to Reduce Sodium in Foodstuffs”

Safety of MSG

Safety evaluation of monosodium glutamate

Purpose:
A review of the conclusions reached by regulatory and scientific authorities concerning the safety of MSG.
Research Institution:
School of Biological Sciences, University of Surrey, UK and Food and Nutrition Division, Italy
Scientist(s):
Ronald Walker and John R. Lupien
Results Published:
Journal of Nutrition 2000;130:1049S-1052S; full study
Conclusion:
The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), after careful review of more than 200 scientific reports evaluated glutamate as “Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) not specified.” This meant that the Committee concluded that no upper intake limit was necessary, placing monosodium glutamate in the category of the safest of all food additives.

Consensus Meeting: Monosodium glutamate - opinions on MSG safety updated

Purpose:
To summarise and evaluate the physiological effects and the safety of monosodium glutamate.
Research Institution:
University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany.
Scientist(s):
K. Beyreuther, H. K. Biesalski, J. D. Fernstrom, P. Grimm, W. P. Hammes, U. Heinemann, O. Kempski, P. Stehle, H. Steinhart, R. Walker
Results Published:
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007) 61, 304-313; abstract
Conclusion:
Glutamate from all sources is mainly used as energy fuel in the body. A maximum intake of 16.000 mg/kg body weight is regarded as safe. The general use of glutamate salts (MSG and others) as food additive can, thus, be regarded as harmless for the whole population.

To investigate a potential association between MSG intake and obesity and/or a greater prevalence of weight gain over 5 years

Purpose:
To investigate a potential association between MSG intake and obesity and/or a greater prevalence of weight gain over 5 years
Research Institution:
Department of Nutrition and Foodborne Disease Prevention, Jiangsu Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanjing, China
Scientist(s):
Z. Shi, N.D. Luscombe-Marsh, G.A. Wittert, B. Yuan, Y. Dai, X. Pan and A.W. Taylor
Results Published:
Monosodium glutamate is not associated with obesity or a greater prevalence of weight gain over 5 years: findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese adults. British Journal of Nutrition, April 2010; abstract
Study Design:
One large cross-sectional study of 752 healthy Chinese men and women.
Study Results:
The findings indicated that when other food items or dietary patterns are taken into account, there is no association between MSG intake and weight gain.

Study of the possible role of dietary glutamate in stimulating the brain

Purpose:
To study the possible role of dietary glutamate in stimulating the brain to produce abnormally high blood levels of certain hormones.
Research Institution:
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
Scientist(s):
John D. Fernstrom
Results Published:
“Short-term Neuroendocrine Effects of a Large Oral Dose of Monosodium Glutamate in Fasting Male Subjects,” Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 1996; abstract
Study Design:
  • Fasting men were given a large (12.7 grams) oral dose of MSG or a high protein meal.
  • Subjects were also given both a negative control or positive control to elevate levels of several hormones in order to assess brain function.
  • Hormone levels were measured following all administrations.
  • Subjective participant feelings were evaluated by self-rating questionnaires.
Study Results:
Plasma levels of hormones evaluated were unaffected by MSG. Even following a high dose of MSG, little or no effect on hypothalamic or pituitary function was observed. The self-evaluation revealed no mood or physical effects were experienced during the two days following treatment.

MSG Allergy: Separating facts from fiction

MSG Allergy - Facts

You may have heard someone claim they are “allergic” to monosodium glutamate, or perhaps you think you have an MSG allergy, or you’ve been wondering if claims about MSG side effects are true.

LEARN MORE