Is MSG Bad For You?

Is MSG Bad For You?
4.06 (81.18%) 34 votes

What the peer-reviewed scientific literature has to say about MSG.


Harmful, harmless, or helpful: MSG, found in fast food Chinese, and in Bragg Liquid Aminos. A common veggie seasoning; no wonder it makes stuff taste so good.

In 1997, there was a consensus meeting of top European scientists, who concluded that MSG was harmless. They met again last year to review all the latest data on the subject.

Who thinks the scientists now concluded MSG is harmful? Who thinks they stuck with harmless? Anyone think they found some secret hidden healthy properties? Utterly harmless.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Harmful, harmless, or helpful: MSG, found in fast food Chinese, and in Bragg Liquid Aminos. A common veggie seasoning; no wonder it makes stuff taste so good.

In 1997, there was a consensus meeting of top European scientists, who concluded that MSG was harmless. They met again last year to review all the latest data on the subject.

Who thinks the scientists now concluded MSG is harmful? Who thinks they stuck with harmless? Anyone think they found some secret hidden healthy properties? Utterly harmless.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

More on MSG: Update on MSG

And check out my other “HHH” videos – Harmful, Harmless, or Helpful? – listed below the post.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.



39 responses to “Is MSG Bad For You?

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    1. Interestingly, though, a new study following about 10,000 healthy adults over about a 5 year period found that MSG consumption was apparently associated with the risk of becoming overweight. Did it just make people eat more because the food tasted better? Apparently not, as the association remained even after controlling for energy intake.

      1. Can we get an update on this? Would you say this study was scientifically valid enough that those of us with weight problems should avoid it?

        1. Based on the 2007 study Dr. Greger cited I do not see a new consensus since! If I find one I’ll post here. Thanks, Lauren.


      2. Dr. Greger, Don’t get me wrong, I admire and appreciate you and your website and am delighted with all the answers I find here. I trust your website more than any other source. However, your coverage/exploration of MSG seems surprisingly light. The study you quote isn’t even a study, but a meeting of the “experts” where they have a “consensus” about MSG. I searched MSG on PubMed and there are 456 pages of articles about it, so there is no lack of information about it.

        The study abstract pasted at the bottom of my post suggests MSG is not innocuous.

        Also, Dr. Blaylock, who wrote “Excitotoxins the taste that kills” speaks of it in terms of hypothalamus damage, which the study below also refers to (I have no idea if Dr. Blaylock is a reliable source or not, but would like to know). See excerpt below from an interview with him:
        Dr. Blaylock: Yes, they’ll put hydrolyzed protein in it. They’re selling taste. I mean, that’s why a person prefers one restaurant to another. The food tastes better. Then they go home and feel sick and don’t understand why.
        One of the things that has been noticed about sudden cardiac death is that most that have it, other than athletes, die after eating a meal in a restaurant. I suspect it’s because these people have low magnesium. They eat the meal, the glutamate stimulates the glutamate receptor in the cardiac conduction system as well as the hypothalamus, and they have a sudden cardiac death.

        Journal article:
        Neurobehav Toxicol Teratol. 1986 Sep-Oct;8(5):509-19.
        Behavioral and endocrinological effects of single injections of monosodium glutamate in the mouse.
        Lorden JF, Caudle A.
        Treatment of neonatal mice with large, repeated doses of monosodium L-glutamate (MSG) produces a syndrome of obesity and endocrinological dysfunction generally attributed to a hypothalamic lesion. We have used single injections of MSG, administered on postnatal day four, to explore the lower end of the dose-response curve for this toxin. Major features of the MSG syndrome including hypophagia, obesity, hypoactivity, reduced pituitary protein content, decreased ovarian weight, delayed puberty and elevated plasma corticosterone levels were obtained at the highest dose. Of the variables measured, feeding disturbances and reduced pituitary and ovarian weights were the most sensitive indicators of damage. The extent of damage produced in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus increased with increasing dose. A prominent lesion was also detected in the medial preoptic area of animals receiving the highest dose. Damage was not evident in other diencephalic structures associated with body weight regulation. Since little is known about the mechanisms underlying MSG obesity, a second study examined the contribution of ovarian hormones to obesity in MSG treated mice. Ovariectomy increased the body weights of animals injected with low but not high doses of MSG, suggesting that a reduction in ovarian function may contribute to the MSG obesity syndrome in the female. Measurement of hypothalamic monoamines and metabolites in these mice indicated that as with repeated doses of MSG, single injections of the toxin reduced hypothalamic dopamine levels. DOPAC levels were unchanged.

        1. People are mice.

          When you eat it, very little if any even leaves the GI tract and it broken down in the stomach.

          The amount of MSG that you would add to a dish is likely less than what glutamate you are getting in the food that you eat normally. MSG occurs naturally.

          “Monosodium glutamate (MSG), also known as sodium glutamate, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids.[2] Glutamic acid is found naturally in tomatoes, grapes, cheese, mushrooms and other foods”

          Unless you are injecting cheese directly into your brain, MSG is a nothing burger.

    1. Migraine headaches(i.e. vascular headaches) are often triggered by certain chemicals in foods. Tyramine is one. It is a naturally occurring substance found in highest quantities in fermented and processed foods (cheeses, processed meats. There are some plant products that are also high in tyramine such as broad beans and peanuts.Tyramine content also goes up as food is stored so care needs to be observed in eating left overs. In my clinical experience with my patients the amount consumed seems to be an issue. I have been less impressed with stress being a factor but more impressed with the behaviors and eating habits of patients under stress. For instance folks under stress tend to skip meals thus eating more when they do eat. They tend toward more processed foods. Plant based diets seem to reduce migraines compared to consumption of the standard American diet but as I mentioned there are plant triggers. Since it is very individual issue it is best to keep a food journal and look at what was consumed the 24 hours prior to onset of the migraine ha. The only caveat is that it is important that the headache be correctly identified as to type. I have had many patients with muscular skeletal headaches be told they have migraines by mistake. It is important to work with your physician to help sort this all out. MSG in some individuals can cause the headaches or more commonly it may be the foods consumed with MSG.

      1. I have a severe allergy to MSG. The last time I ate a Chick-filet sandwich and I almost died from it. I didn’t know that it was the second ingredient in the sandwich. They called an ambulance and I went to the ER. My blood Pressure went to 29 on the bottom. I have had several attacks with MSG and I have sever stomach cramps, diarrhea, and start vomiting. My body is trying to get rid of it. I usually pass out after I have eaten it. Now I can’r eat anything that is packaged or canned. It has to be all fresh food. KFG is listed as the worst place to eat if you have an allergy to it and chick-filet is the second. I have to confess that it is making me a little paranoid about eating food. I am getting afraid to eat. I have heard that it is not healthy for anyone to eat it, it kills brain cells. But for me, it is life threatening.

        1. I feel you Nelda, it gives me seizures and I feel the same way about food as well. I don’t eat fast food,I am vegan anyway, and if I eat any processed food, I always check the label. Sometimes they disguise it as “spices” which is almost always MSG. I figured it was best to just avoid than to have to take medication for the rest of my life.

          1. It’s almost a blessing in disguise, because it forces you to feed your body with the nourishing, whole foods that it requires. You’re undoubtedly much healthier for it

  1. Why do you say that Bragg’s has MSG? The ingredients list on my bottle has just two ingredients: “Vegetable Protein from Soybeans and Purified Water”.

    1. This is what Bragg’s site says about this issue:

      Also, Bragg does not add any MSG to its liquid amino products. However, MSG is found naturally occurring in many foods, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and soybeans. Since Bragg Liquid Aminos is made from soybeans, there can be some very small amounts of naturally occurring MSG. Patricia Bragg is personally very opposed to adding MSG as a food ingredient to foods, and she is very sensitive to MSG. Many of our customers who are very sensitive to MSG have never had any adverse reactions to Bragg Liquid Aminos.

  2. Its important to note that any substance once removed from any food and processed into a powder etc changes the bioavability of the synergestic componets such as phytonutrients. In this case MSG found in foods are akin to vitamins in foods like beta carotene. Though when processed beta carotene becomes a toxin, this is also true of MSG. Not to mention substances like sugar, fructose, synthetic and “natural isolated” vitamins. Thus not all substances are created equal, even though chemically speaking they are so called “identical”.Therefore a distinction should be made between natural occuring MSG and processed white chrystaline MSG powder used for flavor enhancement or as a meat tenderizer as they are different.

  3. Behavioral and endocrinological effects of single injections of monosodium glutamate in the mouse.
    & other references:

    I’m all for eating vegan, but there comes a point where skewing the evidence to suggest that substitute meat products are not harmful suggests an agenda that trumps the truth. Whether this agenda is good ( as in saving animals) or merely self-serving (as in generating profits) makes no difference when it comes to trusting in the claims.

  4. Are we saying that naturally occurring MSG is ok but artificial MSG not? Is at the end due biochemical individuality?

  5. Many are unclear about the risks of MSG. Dr. Russell Blaylock tells us the harm of MSG and all of the tricky ways it is inserted into virtually all processed foods. While I find his focus on this to be interesting, what we don’t see are studies that have validated his findings and other unbiased researchers finding similar results. I’m skeptical of his claims that cabals of food producers, even those that shun unnatural additives, collaborate to prevent his research being used to change laws and regulations that cover labeling. I’m not even convinced that a specific range of glutimate can be determined to be harmful much less a level that is safe.
    Nonetheless, avoiding MSG and other forms of glutimate seems to be prudent, even if that is the natural result of eating unrefined grains, fruits and veggies. As soon as you add Bragg’s to the plate of steamed greens however, you are, if you believe Blaylock, are eating something as harmful as highly-processed food.

    Please help us sort out the *nutrition facts* of glutimate in all it’s forms!

  6. I have gotten terrible headaches from MSG in Asian restaurant food. For some reason Braggs Omino Acids doesn’t seem to have that effect. Is there a different kind of MSG in Braggs?

    Another question concerns Miso which contains a staggering amount of sodium. You suggest consuming a teaspoon a day. That’s a lot of sodium. Is it rendered harmless because it’s in Miso? Couldn’t one consume 1/4 teaspoon and still gain enough health benefits from Miso to make a difference?

  7. For those recovering from BENZO dependency (Benzodiazepine), there is much discussion about the effects on glutamates in ones diet and the recovery the nervous system (GABA receptors) during withdrawal (following the Dr Heather Ashton Manual). See the entries in the community.

    Are glutamates in ones diet safe for someone recovering form benzo dependency?

    1. The best book I have read about the effects of benzos and how to withdraw from them is Dr. Breggin’s book entitled, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal a guide to for prescribers, therapists, patients and families. It is an excellent and practical resource. If anyone is interested in the scope of the problem with the overprescribing of psychiatric drugs another good book is Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic. MSG is a problem for some folks and not for others. The withdrawal from benzos, antidepressants, mood stablilizers, drugs for ADHD and antipsychotics should be done slowly under the guidance of trained healthcare professionals and a supportive family/friends environment. Good luck.

  8. Hard to say what to make of this. What was in the review? I’m not saying I disagree, but I think more investigation of the exact tests referenced would be useful. This could be a very important issue. For instance, is the data based on behavioral observations, or were neurons actually observed post-mortem to determine if there was damage? It can take 80-90 percent neuron damage/death to show up in behavior. So we’d need to know the cumulative effects at the cellular level to say if it’s safe or not to consume MSG or MSG-like products. I read parts of Dr. Blaylock’s book, Excitotoxins, intend to read all of it, and not convinced it’s harmful in practical terms, eg: for large numbers of people over long periods, although certain people are hurt by it. Still, he recommends a test of aspartame headache which I did and got a bad headache like he said,which went away when I stopped the aspartame. Taste is important to joy of life, like other senses. I love The Soup Man, but it’s full of MSG-like additives in addition to the wonderful recipes! darn…Blaylock is sort of strange in areas of his life, wonder if he’s right in this one, being a biochem whiz and neurosurgeon. ? Geniuses.

  9. It gives me seizures. No joke. When we found out the cause of my epilepsy, I just stopped eating anything with MSG, and also zero calories sweeteners, and I have been medication free for over 2 years now!

    1. Though, it’s only if it’s added or not natural, I don’t have any seizures with Bragg’s Aminos or mushrooms or anything.

    2. I was trying to determine the safety or not of glutamate and glutamine when I read your comment. I’ve never had a seizure from MSG (though I try to avoid it) but I have had them from aspartame. The worst time I woke up in a hospital 32 hours after the seizure started. Whew! It’s freaky to lose a whole day and some memory access, at least temporarily. I went on Dilantin, but eventually weaned myself off it and had an EKG which was normal. Then, a few months later, because I hadn’t yet figured out the cause of my seizures, I had Equal in coffee two mornings in a row, something I normally didn’t do. That morning at work I had another seizure. I went back on Dilantin, but finally figured out the cause (though my neurologist disagreed), very slowly weaned myself off Dilantin again, have been very careful not to consume any more aspartame, and have never had another seizure. That was close to 20 years ago.

  10. After watching the videos, reading responses and doing a bit of research, I’ve concluded that glutamate is totally safe and natural when it’s naturally occurring in real foods such as tomatoes, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, etc. but should definitely be avoided as a food additive. The white powdery stuff added to enhance that Chinese food is very different than the naturally occurring substances found in soybeans. I used to experience headaches and feel very mentally weird when consuming foods especially high in MSG, like Ramen (I can’t believe I once put that crap in my body lol) but I feel totally fine on nutritional yeast, liquid aminos, etc. And the research speaks for itself in that those who consume mushrooms, tomatoes, whole soybeans, nutritional yeast, etc., are healthier for it. The science always seems to come down to nature knowing best. Things only become bad when man tries to manipulate them as is the case with MSG powder and liquid to enhance flavor.

  11. All I can tell you is that my experiences with it have not been pleasant. I may just be allergic. It makes me dizzy, disoriented, and on the verge of passing out. If I ingest any by accident, a teaspoon of cream of tartar in a glass of water makes the symptoms go away quickly, but that remedy will make you have to run to the bathroom shortly thereafter. Cream of tartar acts as a laxative, but I’ll take running to the bathroom a few times over the symptoms of MSG any day.

    I’ve seen a few comments to the effect that all this hype over the bad effects of MSG is all BS, but it’s very real to some of us. I have to eat WFPB, because most food additives make me sick. To any of you with the same issue as I, stay away from the all you can eat buffets. They’re saturated with the stuff. I was told that they do that to preserve the food, which sometimes stays in the warming bins for long periods of time.

  12. Two people asked but it still hasn’t been addressed. What about the sodium content? Is eating the sodium in this form any different than, say, just eating salt?

  13. Its the same sodium as in table salt: a required mineral, but only at about 200 to 400 mg/day, and hazardous to health when consumed in excess.

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