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Fact or fiction: MSG is bad for you

MSG's taken a bad rap, and you may have heard that it's a nasty chemical added to food and it's bad for you. Is that true?

Actually… not quite. Glutamic acid is the active component of MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). It's commonly used as a flavour enhancer in snack foods and in Asian cooking. Glutamic acid also occurs naturally in significant quantities in tomatoes, mushrooms, seaweed, shellfish and cheese, particularly parmesan. The body cannot distinguish between naturally-occurring MSG and its synthesised forms.

'Chinese restaurant syndrome' was the catch phrase, coined in the '60s, used to describe the symptoms some people believed to be associated with MSG in Chinese food. There is a very small percentage of people who are sensitive to large amounts of MSG. But toxicologists have concluded that MSG is harmless for most people, even in large amounts. Studies have failed to show MSG as the causal agent in provoking the full range of symptoms of 'Chinese restaurant syndrome'.

The bottom line: Mostly myth

Most of us eat MSG every day without any reaction at all. Don't over-eat next time you have Chinese food, and go easy on the deep-fried items (which could also make you feel uncomfortable), and you should be fine.