Does MSG actually naturally occur in foods and is it the same as products like hydrolyzed wheat and yeast extract?


I see a lot of articles that defend MSG by saying that it occurs naturally in umami foods and that things like hydrolyzed proteins and yeast extract are just MSG.

Is it possible that while MSG is safe, the overzealous arguments aren’t completely true?

I thought what occurs naturally and what hydrolyzed protein and yeast extract actually is is glutamic acid, while MSG is monosodium glutamate which is the sodium salt of the acid so they technically aren’t the same.

In: Chemistry

As soon as either MSG or glutamic acid hits your saliva it dissolves and becomes a negative glutamate ion and whatever positive cation it was bound to, either hydrogen in the case of glutamic acid or sodium in the case of MSG. That’s the only difference.

It is possible, that MSG is perfectly safe, in fact we’ve known about it for years. The original “idea” that MSG was bad for you came from a prank letter written, written under a racist pseudonym to a medical journal about how “[Chinese food makes your tire](”, it was all kind of a good-natured-yet-still-kinda-racist prank in the 1970s. But immediately after tons of letters flooded in responding and then, poof , 50 years later we all “know” that MSG is bad for you.

It’s not, it’s delicious and normal. It’s all just a prank that got out of control.

Ionic bonds are extremely soluable in water. For example table salt is a sodium chloride crystal. The sodium and chloride are held together with ionic bonds. But when you put salt in water it dissolves and there is no longer any ionic bonds. It is just free floating sodium ions and chloride ions in the water. There are other ions as well such as hydric ions and hydrate ions which both form naturally in water. All these ions is just flowing freely throughout the solution without any connections between them.

Glutamate and other amino acids are ions as well. To stabelize them in a dry environment we need to combine it with ions of opposite polarity. Cheapest of which is sodium. You could use hydrogen ions but this would make it very acidic because as soon as those hydrogen ions dissolves in water they form acid which easily bonds with other chemicals causing lots of reactions. So to prevent this we use sodium. But as soon as we mix it with water it does not matter what it is because the ionic bonds are gone.

MSG is monosodium glutamate, your body is full of glutamate as it is an amino acid essential for your life, and whenever there is sodium in solution it can and does form MSG. That is why you can’t label food as “no MSG” or “MSG free”, it’s always “no MSG added” because if it has protein at all then it’s going to have MSG. MSG, like sodium, is really one of those things that is associated with living things, and it is healthy to have it in your diet. Like sodium, there is such thing as too much.

With all that said, there are studies that have shown negative effects of extreme amounts of glutamate (but nobody eats that much), and lots have shown negative effects of MSG, but the MSG negative effects can mostly be explained as too much sodium. As it relates to Chinese food, they traditionally use a lot of soy sauce, which is really soy protein and salt in liquid form, it forms a LOT of MSG, to the point that soy sauce can be considered liquid MSG. Using a lot of soy sauce will add a lot of sodium to your diet, and yes, Chinese food tends to be high in sodium. Those negative effects of Chinese food are really too much sodium, I have gotten headaches from Chinese food, it absolutely was too much sodium.

For whatever reason, people seem to think a headache after eating Chinese food, and other negative effects are somehow from the MSG, it’s not, it’s from the sodium, which technically is “from MSG”, but you would have had the same effect if your replaced the MSG with table salt.

MSG chemical does actually occur in nature. Meat naturally has msg. Eggs too. mushrooms and seaweed like kelp have plenty of msg and is used in lots of Asian cuisine because of that. Peas corn potatos too.

The primary means of natural (vs artificial produced) produced msg is extracting and distilling from seaweed

MSG is perfectly fine and all of the health woes are largely hysteria with a healthy sprinkle of racism (allowing for the very rare person who is actually, genuinely allergic. You can be allergic to *water*, so yes, you can also be allergic to MSG. That’s right – some people take a shower or get caught in the rain and the *water* causes hives).

Consider this: Chinese restaurants feels compelled to put signs on their restaurants and notes on their menus saying “NO MSG” because of all the garbage about Chinese food causing headaches while KFC, Chick-fil-A, Doritos, and Pringles don’t. The same people who will swear deathly allergies to MSG at a Chinese restaurant will happily chow down on a KFC bucket – which is full of MSG – and then wash it down with a Doritos locos taco – which is also MSG packed.

Why the disparity? It all comes down to a letter written by a doc with an *anecdotal* observation that he got headaches when eating at a Chinese restaurant. This set off a storm of panic and hysteria over *Chinese* food and MSG, but at the time most Americans and Canadians were dusting their meals with “Accent”, “Knorr liquid seasoning”, “Maggi”, or any of the other “normal” housewife friendly brands and the biggest user of MSG was the food industry pumping out the new frozen foods. Chinese restaurants were a drop in the ocean of MSG in the Americas. Yet, they were vilified and singled out. *I wonder why*.

The legacy of this continues today. I am not saying that you are racist – MSG being bad is a cultural myth at this point repeated so often and from so many angles that it’s just accepted as truth without reflection – but there is a reason that Chinese restaurants feel the need to advertise a lack of a harmless ingredient in their food today while Doritos does not.

Also, there is a lot of misinformation out there about the origins of the letter that kicked this all off. The letter was actually real. The guy who claimed to write it as a joke was pulling a prank and did not write it. The whole thing is still not based on science and definitely is selective in where MSG outrage pops up.