Monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG, is a common food additive marketed as a flavor enhancer that looks simpler to salt. It is most often seen added Asian foods (such as Chinese cuisine), canned vegetables, soups, and processed meats. The FDA classifies MSG as “generally recognized as safe” but the debate still remains about whether or not certain health concerns are related to MSG consumption.
The FDA requires that MSG be listed on all food labels that contain it. MSG can also be disguised under other names such as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” (HVP), “glutamic acid”, “enzyme modified”, “natural flavor”, “yeast extract”, “maltodextrin”, and “autolyzed yeast”.
Over the years, adverse reactions to foods containing (known as MSG symptom complex) have arisen. Symptoms of the MSG symptom complex include headache, flushing, sweating, facial pressure or tightness, numbness, tingling or burning in the face and neck, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, and weakness. People complaining of such signs and symptoms have a short-term reaction that does not require medical treatment. Research on this topic is still relatively new and it is hard to say whether or not there is a direct link between MSG consumption and these symptoms. Therefore, the only way to prevent the possibility of such reactions is to avoid foods containing MSG.
Be sure to read the labels on your food and check with your local Chinese restaurant to ensure that MSG is not being used in their food.