7 Side Effects of MSG and 15 Foods With This Ingredient You Should Avoid

We are talking about one of the most controversial ingredients on the planet.

While some claim it’s a safe and healthy food additive that can help increase flavor and minimize sodium intake, others have called it a cancer-causing food and linked it to side effects like headaches and blood pressure. high.

Although it is found in abundance in much of the modern food supply, MSG should in no way be a staple in a healthy diet.

It can cause adverse symptoms in certain people sensitive to its effects, but it is also mainly found in unhealthy and highly processed foods that lack your body’s essential nutrients.

So why is MSG bad, and how can you ensure you keep your intake in check to reduce the risk of adverse side effects? This is what you need to know.

What is MSG?

MSG, also known as monosodium glutamate, is a common ingredient and food additive used to enhance the flavor of processed, canned, and frozen foods.

MSG seasoning is derived from glutamic acid, a type of protein that is abundant in many kinds of foods, including fruits and vegetables. It is produced through fermentation and brings a tasty flavor to dishes.


So why is MSG controversial? Because it contains a highly concentrated, isolated form of glutamic acid, it is processed very differently in the body and can quickly increase glutamate levels in the blood.

This is thought to cause a long list of potential side effects, with studies linking excessive MSG consumption to everything from asthma attacks to metabolic syndrome and beyond.

Side effects and dangers

  1. Causes reactions in some people.
  2. It can cause the formation of free radicals.
  3. It can contribute to weight gain.
  4. It could increase blood pressure.
  5. It has been linked to asthma attacks.
  6. It could be linked to metabolic syndrome.
  7. Found mainly in unhealthy foods.
  8. Causes reactions in some people

Research shows that certain people can be susceptible to the effects of MSG and may experience several adverse side effects after consuming it.

Nicknamed the “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” one study showed that MSG triggered side effects in many people with a reported sensitivity to MSG, causing MSG symptoms such as:

  • Muscle tightness
  • Numbness / tingling
  • Soft spot.
  • Hot flushes.
  • Headache.

Although researchers are not entirely sure what causes MSG sensitivity, they have theorized that eating large amounts can cause small amounts of glutamate to cross the blood-brain barrier, interacting with neurons to cause inflammation and cell death.

  1. It can cause the formation of free radicals.

Some animal models and in vitro studies have shown that consuming large amounts of MSG could cause oxidative damage to cells and contribute to the formation of free radicals.

For example, research published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research showed that feeding rats very high doses of MSG increased the levels of various markers of oxidative stress in heart tissue.

The formation of free radicals has been linked to the development of chronic diseases, such as:

  • Heart diseases.
  • Cancer.
  • Diabetes.

However, keep in mind that most research shows that it would take a very high dose of MSG significantly higher than the average intake to cause harm.

  1. May contribute to weight gain.

Studies are not yet conclusive regarding the effects of MSG on weight management.

Although some research shows that it can improve satiety to keep you full and decrease consumption, other studies have found that it may be associated with weight gain and increased consumption.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, for example, showed that adding MSG to a high-protein meal had no effect on satiety and increased calorie intake later in the day.

Meanwhile, other studies have found that regular consumption of MSG could be associated with weight gain and an increased risk of being overweight in specific populations.

  1. Could increase blood pressure

High blood pressure is a severe condition that can put excess pressure on the heart and cause the heart muscle to weaken over time slowly.

Along with high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, having high blood pressure levels is one of the main risk factors for developing heart disease.

In a 2015 study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers found that consuming high amounts of MSG resulted in significant systolic and diastolic blood pressure increases.

Similarly, the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that MSG intake was associated with higher blood pressure levels over five years in Chinese adults.

  1. It has been linked to asthma attacks.

Some studies have found that MSG intake could be linked to an increased risk of asthma attacks in those at risk.

A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology tested the effects of 500 milligrams of MSG in 32 people with asthma and found that a shocking 40 percent of participants experienced a worsening of asthma symptoms within 12 hours of having ingested MSG.

Not only that, but nearly half of those who experienced a reaction also reported side effects associated with Chinese restaurant syndromes, such as headaches, numbness, and hot flashes.

  1. It could be linked to metabolic syndrome.

A metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that can significantly increase your risk of developing problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Some of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome include:

  • Have high blood sugar.
  • An increase in blood pressure
  • Excessive amounts of belly fat or abnormal cholesterol levels.

Multiple studies have linked MSG to several conditions, including high blood pressure and obesity.

Another study conducted in Thailand showed a direct association between monosodium glutamate consumption and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome among 349 adults.

  1. Found primarily in unhealthy foods

Regardless of whether or not you have a sensitivity to MSG, it should not be a regular part of your diet.

This is because it is found primarily in ultra-processed foods that offer little in terms of Nutrition other than extra calories, refined carbohydrates, fat, and sodium.

On the other hand, supplementing your diet with unprocessed whole foods is the easiest way to minimize your dietary MSG intake and supply your diet with the vitamins and minerals you need.

Any potential benefits?

While most research shows that going overboard with MSG can have adverse effects on your health, there may be some potential benefits that need to be considered.

Monosodium glutamate can often enhance the flavor of savory dishes and can often lessen the need to pile salt on your favorite foods.

Overdoing foods high in sodium can have detrimental effects on your health, with some research linking excessive sodium intake to conditions like the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Bone loss
  • Kidney problems.

Combining MSG with a small amount of salt is estimated to help reduce sodium intake by 20 to 40 percent, which may be beneficial for some people.

Additionally, while multiple studies have linked MSG intake to weight gain and obesity, other studies have yielded conflicting results, reporting that it might improve satiety and reduce caloric intake at subsequent meals.

Given these inconsistent findings, more research is needed to understand the role of monosodium glutamate in weight management.

The following is a list of 15 foods with MSG to avoid

Unfortunately, there are many hidden sources of MSG in food, and it can be found in everything from fast food to meat products.

The best way to find out if MSG is in your favorite foods is to check the label and look for ingredients like “monosodium glutamate,” “glutamic acid,” “glutamate,” or “yeast extract.”

Here are some of the top MSG foods to watch out for on your next trip to the grocery store:

  1. Chips.
  2. Fast food.
  3. Seasonings
  4. Convenience foods.
  5. Built-in.
  6. Iced tea mixes.
  7. Salty snacks.
  8. Instant noodles.
  9. Sports drinks.
  10. Processed meats
  11. Canned soups
  12. Soy sauce.
  13. Warm / Warm.
  14. Salad dressings
  15. Cookies.

MSG vs salt / sodium

Like MSG, consuming high amounts of sodium can contribute to a long list of potential health problems. High sodium intake has been associated with high blood pressure, bone loss, and impaired kidney function.

MSG contains sodium but has about a third the amount of sodium as table salt, so it is often used to reduce the sodium content of processed foods while providing the same level of flavor.

In fact, according to the European Food Information Council, combining MSG with a small amount of table salt can reduce your total sodium intake by 20 to 40 percent.

It is best to keep the consumption of both products in moderation in a healthy diet. Cutting back on processed foods and unhealthy snacks is the best way to cut down sodium and MSG.

Instead, supplement your diet with plenty of nutrient-dense ingredients like fruits, vegetables, protein foods, and whole grains. Try experimenting with other spices to add an extra dose of flavor without the adverse side effects.

MSG vs. glutamate

Glutamate, also known as glutamic acid, is a vital amino acid found in many types of food, including mushrooms, meat, fish, milk, and tomatoes.

It has natural flavor-enhancing properties that can help improve the flavor of many dishes naturally.

On the other hand, monosodium glutamate is defined as the sodium salt of glutamic acid. Initially discovered in 1908, MSG is a product often used in many foods today produced through a fermentation process.

However, the main difference between glutamate and monosodium glutamate is the way they are processed within the body. Glutamate found in food is usually linked to a long chain of other amino acids.

When you eat it, your body slowly breaks it down and closely regulates the amount you eat. Excess amounts can be excreted through waste to prevent toxicity.

Meanwhile, MSG is produced using a concentrated form of isolated glutamate, meaning that it is not bound to other amino acids and can be broken down very quickly.

This also means that it can raise glutamate levels in the blood much more quickly, contributing to symptoms in people with sensitivity.

For this reason, glutamate in food is generally not a concern for most people and has not been linked to the same adverse side effects.

However, the monosodium glutamate found in processed foods has been associated with many symptoms.

These symptoms can include:

  • Headaches.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Weight gain.
  • Asthma attacks

How You Can Avoid MSG in Your Daily Diet

MSG is a common ingredient in many processed foods, from salty snacks to frozen items.

The best way to eliminate all food sources with MSG from your diet is to minimize your intake of processed junk foods and incorporate healthier whole foods into your weekly rotation.

You can also start reading food labels to ensure your shopping list is entirely MSG-free.

Look up some of the other names for MSG, including monosodium glutamate, glutamic acid, calcium glutamate, and similar variations.

Other ingredients like yeast extract, sodium caseinate, and hydrolyzed products can also indicate that MSG may be present.

Healthier alternatives and recipes

MSG is a popular component in many Asian dishes and noodle-based recipes. However, there are many ways to enjoy your favorite tasty foods without adding MSG.

Mushrooms, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese are three healthy, natural sources of glutamic acid that can be added to dishes to enhance flavor.

Experimenting with some healing herbs and spices in your food can help maximize flavor while offering a host of health benefits.

Here are some healthy and homemade MSG-free recipes you can try to satisfy your taste buds:

  • Bittersweet chicken.
  • Healthy vegetarian soup (Pho).
  • Cauliflower and Fried Rice.
  • Chicken, Zucchini, and Ramen Noodles.
  • Beef and Broccoli.


So how is MSG made? The history of MSG dates back to 1866, the year German biochemist Karl Heinrich Ritthausen first discovered glutamic acid after treating wheat gluten with sulfuric acid.

A few years later, in 1908, the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda isolated glutamic acid as a taste substance from a type of seaweed called kombu and realized that it was responsible for a new flavor that had not yet been scientifically described called umami.

Ikeda began to study the taste of specific glutamate salts and soon discovered that sodium glutamate was the easiest to crystallize, the tastiest, and the most soluble among them.

A year later, a Japanese food company began commercial production of MSG.

Today, MSG is a common component of many Asian dishes and is known for providing its characteristic salty taste to broths, meats, and noodle dishes.

However, as more research on the potential side effects of this popular seasoning, many food manufacturers and restaurants have begun offering MSG-free products and ingredients on their menus.


Because MSG contains a concentrated amount of free glutamic acid, it can quickly increase glutamate levels in the blood. While some people can tolerate moderate amounts without realizing the side effects, it can contribute to symptoms such as:

  • Headaches.
  • Redness
  • Muscle tension in people with an allergy or sensitivity to MSG.

However, MSG is found chiefly in unhealthy and under-processed foods, so it shouldn’t be a staple in your diet, regardless of whether you experience these side effects.

If you notice any adverse symptoms after consuming foods high in MSG, try reducing your intake by minimizing your information of familiar sources of MSG.

Keep in mind that it is often hidden in different types of food, even masquerading as healthy foods, so be sure to pay close attention to the label of your food ingredients and increase your consumption of nutrient-dense foods to ensure that your diet is low in MSG.

These foods can be:

  • Fruits.
  • Raw vegetables.
  • Meats.
  • Nuts and seeds.

Final thoughts

What is MSG? Also known as monosodium glutamate, it is a common food additive made from the sodium salt of glutamic acid, a common amino acid found throughout the food supply.

So is MSG bad for you? Some studies have linked MSG to weight gain, high blood pressure, asthma attacks, metabolic syndrome, and short-term side effects in sensitive people.

Furthermore, it is also mainly found in unhealthy processed foods that should be kept to a minimum in a healthy diet. Some of the most common sources of MSG include processed foods, salty snacks, condiments, and convenience items.

To reduce your MSG intake, supplement your diet with nutrient-dense whole foods and practice reading labels to ensure MSG is not in your favorite ingredients.