Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavour enhancer commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. Glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid that the body uses and needs. The synthetic manipulation and processing of glutamate produces a form that is not found in nature. Proven by studying many other areas, particularly hormone medications, attempting to recreate a product of nature often produces less than desirable results. MSG has been labeled an excitotoxin because it is thought to have the ability to overstimulate cells to death. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that's "generally recognized as safe," the use of MSG remains controversial. For this reason, when MSG is added to food, the FDA requires that it be listed on the label.
MSG has been used as a food additive for decades. Over the years, the FDA has received many anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to foods containing MSG. These reactions — known as MSG symptom complex — include:
- Facial pressure or tightness
- Numbness, tingling or burning in the face, neck and other areas
- Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
Small amounts in any one food will not be a problem, but if small amounts are in several common foods that are consumed every day, the problem moves to a much graver scale.