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is MSG safe

#fakenews. The talk of 2017.

Before modern politics made “fake news” a household word, dietitians have long battled to contradict false headlines. Practically everyone with an internet connection has seen #fakenews nutrition and food stories; those links – often posted on social media by well-meaning friends – claiming that what we eat is filled with risky chemicals and banned in every nation but our own.

Here’s an example. In 2015, many people (including me) were thrilled to read the headline “Chocolate can help you lose weight.” The attention grabbing news came from a scientific-looking study. Stories about the research ran on several mainstream media sites. A few months later the author of the study, John Bohannon, revealed the entire study was a hoax. He purposely did research with only 16 participants to help engineer the results. Bohannon said he authored the study “to make a point about the media’s willingness to uncritically report and promote junk science.” Bohannon’s actions highlight the need to be critical consumers of media.

MSG has not been spared from incorrect headlines. When searching online, I found monosodium glutamate falsely linked to many health conditions including hormonal imbalances, weight gain, brain damage, obesity, headaches – and more. This is all #fakenewsMSG.

So what’s the real MSG news? #MSGissafe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the addition of MSG to foods to be “generally recognized as safe”.1 And though some people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions. Over the years, the FDA has received reports of symptoms such as headache and nausea after eating foods containing MSG. However, the agency was never able to confirm that the MSG caused the reported effects. In addition, the adverse event reports helped trigger FDA to ask an independent scientific group – the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) – to examine the safety of MSG.


FASEB’s report concluded that MSG is safe.2 The FASEB report identified some short-term, transient, and generally mild symptoms (headache, numbness, flushing, tingling, palpitations, and drowsiness) that may occur in some sensitive individuals who consume 3 grams or more of MSG without food. However, a typical serving of a food with added MSG contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG. The scientists stated that “consuming more than 3 grams of MSG without food at one time is unlikely.”

So listen, ask questions, and investigate fake nutrition claims. Here’s a helpful link for spotting false health information online: “How to Evaluate Health Information on the Internet.”



  1. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Subpart A-General Provisions: Substances that are generally recognized as safe. Code of Federal Regulations: Food and Drugs. Vol. 21, No. 182.1(a).
  2. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Analysis of Adverse Reactions to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). Prepared by the Life Sciences Research Office, FASEB, for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Bethesda, Maryland: FASEB, 1995.

Althea is a registered dietitian/licensed nutritionist and an accomplished health education and communications professional. Althea has 30 years of experience delivering nutrition messages to university, professional, and worksite audiences. She served for 9 years as a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has served as an adjunct professor of sports nutrition in the graduate school at Drexel University. Althea enjoys connecting the enjoyment of food with good nutrition. Note: MSGdish bloggers are compensated for their time in writing for MSGdish, but their statements and opinions are their own. They have pledged to blog with integrity, asserting that the trust of their readers and their peers is vitally important to them.

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