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. Glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found in nearly all foods, especially high protein foods such as dairy products, meat and fish and in many vegetables.
MSG is used in the food industry as a flavor enhancer with an umami taste that intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food, as naturally occurring glutamate does in foods such as stews and meat soups. It was first prepared in 1908 by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda, who was trying to isolate and duplicate the savory taste of kombu, an edible seaweed used as a base for many Japanese soups. MSG as a flavor enhancer balances, blends, and rounds the perception of other tastes.
Monosodium glutamate was extracted from natural protein-rich foods such as seaweed. Today, this time-consuming practice is no longer used and monosodium glutamate is made from an industrial fermentation process.
The people always ask whether monosodium glutamate is linked to adverse reactions.Despite a small number of persons reporting sensitivity to monosodium glutamate, scientific studies have not shown any direct link between monosodium glutamate and adverse reactions in humans. Monosodium glutamate used to be blamed for the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” because the first anecdotal report was made following consumption of a Chinese meal and monosodium glutamate is widely used in Asian cooking. Symptoms said to be experienced included burning sensations along the back of the neck, chest tightness, nausea and sweating. However, a double-blind controlled challenge of individuals claiming to suffer from the “syndrome” failed to confirm monosodium glutamate as the causative agent. Other studies have found that allergic-type reactions after Asian meals are more often due to other ingredients such as shrimp, peanuts, spices and herbs.
Children metabolise glutamate in the same way that adults do and monosodium glutamate is safe for children. In fact, human breast milk contains 10 times more glutamate than cow’s milk.