MSG: The Sneaky Food Additive

MSG: The Sneaky Food Additive

With so many names for monosodium glutamate, do you know where it’s hiding in your kitchen?

Published June 6, 2011

Your next Chinese takeout order could have a little something extra that will not only give you a headache, but stretch your waistline, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG is a flavor enhancer most commonly linked to Chinese food.


The study found that the more MSG individuals eat the more likely they are to be overweight or obese.


But it’s not just Asian cuisine that you have to watch out for. Americans consume their share of MSG when they eat processed foods, like canned soups and chips, and the labels don’t always clearly label it.

The average Americans takes in about half a gram of MSG everyday, compared to someone living in Japan or Korea who can easily consume between a gram-and-a-half and 10 grams a day. While MSG is labeled safe it can give some people who are sensitive to it nausea, headaches or other reactions.


In the study over 10,000 Chinese adults volunteered to have their diet tracked for 5 1/2 years. Researchers measured the amount of MSG they ate and then asked the subjects to estimate their intake over three 24-hour periods. Those that ate the most MSG (5 grams a day) were found to be 30 percent more likely to become overweight by the time the study was over than those that ate the least amount (less than a half-gram a day).


While it may not always be easy to identify MSG on the food label, here’s a list of alternative names of common ingredients from the Truth in Labeling Campaign that could indicate that your food contains the flavor additive:


—Glutamic acid


—Monosodium glutamate


—Monopotassium glutamate


—Calcium glutamate


—Monoammonium glutamate


—Magnesium glutamate


—Natrium glutamate


—Yeast extract


—Anything “hydrolyzed”


—Any “hydrolyzed protein”


—Calcium caseinate,  sodium caseinate


—Yeast food, yeast nutrient


—Autolyzed yeast

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Written by Brandi Tape


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