Tuesday, December 21, 2010

MSG, Not For Me

I've never found myself to have any particular food allergies with the exception of MSG. I started noticing this quite a while back. There seems to be a lot of evidence that "Chinese restuarant syndrome" is a myth:
While many people believe that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the cause of these symptoms, an association has never been demonstrated under rigorously controlled conditions, even in studies with people who were convinced that they were sensitive to the compound.[10][11][12][13] Adequately controlling for experimental bias includes a placebo-controlled double-blinded experimental design and the application in capsules because of the strong and unique after-taste of glutamates.[10]  (Wikipedia)
Wow, look at all those referenced studies!

Even DBPC (double blind placebo controlled) studies indicated no MSG reactions. I decided perhaps I was just imagining things. I tried to be skeptical and objective. Yet time after time I would start to experience a racing heartbeat and a headache, only to realize I had eaten something with MSG. A big offender was Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. I loved that stuff. When I tried to make it myself it never had the same zing as those fiendish little packets. That awesome zing, of course, was MSG. I loved you so, yet you broke my heart (well, made it race alarmingly). Nowadays, I avoid store-bought mayo, and things with labels in general, so I wouldn't be whipping up any ranch dressing that wasn't made from scratch anyway.

The Eades have this to say about MSG:
[aspartame]--along with other similar molecules, most notably MSG (monosodium glutamate), the food additive and flavor enhancer so pervasive in processed foods--behaves as a brain excitotoxin. Its chemical structure allows it to fiit into a receptor within the brain called the NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate) receptor, triggering such overstimulation in the nerve cell that it dies. In other words, the brain cell literally becomes excited to death. (The Protein Power LifePlan, pp 166)
Oh great, just what I need, less brain cells.

So regardless of all the research apparently proving that I am imaging all this, I avoid MSG whilst still nostalgic for its savory taste. This is a classic n=1 decision. Perhaps most people really are imagining their "Chinese restaurant syndrome" but I am going to stick to what works best for me, even if it's all just a figment of my imagination. My brain cells will be grateful.


  1. Really not surprised at the so-called research that was likely aimed at discounting the effects of MSG. I get the same symptoms that you described, along with, something like a "niacin flush" and even disorientation. Those crazy food processors think that they can fool us.

  2. Yeah, I get flushed also. Not pleasant.

  3. This again proves that n=1 experimentation is the only way to really find what is right. I get cranky after MSG. Actually, I get cranky from a lot of things like grains and sugar as well.
    Cranky is a sign of just about anything not right with me.
    Wow, this comment makes me sound like a real witch with a "b"...
    I will go be nice to people now instead. (can you see the sugar high in this comment?)

  4. Yeah paying attention to what works for oneself is really important.

    I was pretty happy to switch from jogging to sprints (although I haven't been able to do any for months because of the weather). But my wife loves long distance jogging, that's her thing, so who am I to badger her into switching to sprinting? OK, I tried anyway.