MSG additive used in Chinese food is actually good for you, scientist claims

For decades, people have avoided MSG over health fears, but could it actually be perfectly safe?

Rachel Hosie
Wednesday 08 February 2017 11:15 GMT

MSG - monosodium glutamate - has a bad rap.

For years, we’ve been told MSG (the sodium salt of glutamic acid) - often associated with cheap Chinese takeaways - is awful for our health and to be avoided at all costs.

But one scientist argues it should be used as a “supersalt” and encourages adding it to food.

Steve Witherly is a food scientist who creates his own 'supersalt mix' consisting of nine parts salt, one part MSG, and a bit of disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.

“I like to encourage my kids to eat a little healthier, so I'll sprinkle a little supersalt in there. That stuff is really powerful,” he told Business Insider.

“For example, I had a whole-wheat pizza - and my kids hate whole-wheat - so I put a little supersalt in the tomato sauce, and they sucked that whole thing down.

“Broccoli is tremendous if you add butter, garlic, and supersalt,” he claims, adding that most savoury dishes and meat are enhanced by the salt mix.

According to Witherly, MSG is perfectly safe. It’s a bold claim, but could he be right?

The negative buzz around MSG first started in 1968 after a report claimed it could lead to headaches, skin flushing, chest pains and numbness.

It was blamed for what became known as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” AKA the symptoms people often have after eating Chinese food.

And people are so afraid of MSG that it’s not unusual to see Asian restaurants and foods proudly proclaiming they’re MSG-free in the hope of assuaging the concerns of potential customers.

But now more and more experts are speaking out to say MSG might not be anywhere near as harmful as many people think.

According to the American Chemical Society, “MSG can temporarily affect a select few when consumed in huge quantities on an empty stomach, but it's perfectly safe for the vast majority of people.”

If you eat a lot of MSG - just like if you ate vast quantities of salt - you’d feel sick, but consumed in a reasonable amount, it should be completely safe.

Witherly is a fan because it adds flavour to dishes, specifically enhancing umami, and means his children eat more vegetables as a result.

What’s more, MSG actually occurs naturally in certain foods like tomatoes and cheese, so if you add a sprinkle of supersalt to your pizza like Witherly, you’re having a veritable MSG feast.

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