What Is Monosodium Glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate is loved by many people …. but it returns that love by bringing sickness, disease and early death to those who use it.

Now you may say, “Listen here, Tobe, what right have you to attack and villify a substance that is so useful to so many people?”

My answer is that I assume the right because monosodium glutamate almost destroyed me. I was fortunate enough to be able to trace the substance that was causing my trouble, but in most cases it is difficult or impossible to lay the blame at the guilty culprit’s door. Before going one step further I wish to make it clear that every person who uses monosodium glutamate will be harmed physically and in direct relation to the quantity of that substance used in the diet.

Someone else may say, “Monosodium glutamate doesn’t mean a thing to me. What are you talking about?”

According to my Merck Index, monosodium glutamate can be defined as the monosodium salt of the naturally occurring L-form of glutamic acid. Produced by hydrolysis of vegetable proteins. As a rule, wheat gluten, corn gluten and sugar beet products are used in the United States while soy bean protein is used in the Orient. It is a white or almost white crystalline powder, with a slight peptone-like odor and a meat-like taste. The optimum concentration is from 0.2 to 0.5% in normally salted food. NaCI must be present to produce an attractive glutamate taste. It is used to impart meat flavor to foods and to enhance other natural food flavors. Also used to improve the taste of tobacco.

It is used by the medical profession for hepatic coma. Has also been employed in psychosis and mental retardation. Large intravenous doses may cause alkalosis, hypokalemia and increased fluid retention.

MSG is the abbreviation for Monosodium Glutamate and some of the names used in the trade are: Ajinomoto, Glutacyl, RL-50, Vetsin, Chinese Seasoning, Accent, Zest, GIutavene.

It appears that the use of MSG as a flavor enhancer for food began about 1910 when it was produced by hydrolysis of vegetable proteins. In 1929 it was produced from Steffens waste from beet-sugar molasses by acid hydrolysis. Then the big leap forward took place in 1943 when it was synthesized by Shildneck. From the information at my disposal, I gather that in Japan the synthesized product is generally used but it is still being made in America by the hydrolysis process from wheat gluten, corn gluten and sugar beet wastes.

Monosodium glutamate is supposed to enhance the natural flavor of food and impart a meat flavor, as well as improve the taste of tobacco, but does it really or does it just trick the body’s taste buds in such a fashion that any food substance appears to taste good under its spell? I believe it is an addictive drug or substance and that is wily it has become so popular.

Perhaps you don’t care if you ingest some MSG as long as your food tastes good, but I do care and I am concerned about this sleight of hand because I have learned through years of painful experience that you don’t get anything for nothing. I feel that you are paying very dearly for turning dishwater into tasty appetizing soup. I emphatically deny that MSG is a flavor enhancer. The only thing I will admit that it enhances is ill health and disease.

When a substance has the power to change the flavor of dung into that of pheasant under glass, then I certainly wouldn’t allow such a substance to pass through my body. Obviously, this substance causes or brings about a chemical reaction and I somehow have the feeling that it causes food to lose its integrity and nutritional value.

Now I would like to tell you about my personal experience with MSG. Out of a clear blue sky back in 1959, I began to have a urinary problem that caused me a great deal of concern. On certain days I would become very thirsty and drink copious amounts of water but, strange to relate, this was not followed by excessive urination. I became quite concerned and began to make notes as to when this occurred.

It seemed that every second Monday of the month I would develop a phenomenal thirst in the late evening. However, my urine flow afterwards was scant and I felt somewhat bloated. This struck me as strange because I believed that if one took in water, then in four hours or so one would urinate. However, I noticed that it wasn’t until late the next day, 24 or 30 hours later, that I would urinate a virtual bucketful of urine.

At first I thought it was the start of prostate troubles but this was ruled out because I didn’t have this problem during the other 12 days of the fortnight. As I said, I was keeping notes concerning this strange sequence of events and on checking my habits I finally got the connection. Every second Monday I attended a Lion’s Club meeting and we were served a sumptuous dinner by a caterer. Thus, I suspected that the food I ate there was somehow involved in this strange turn of events.

To check out my theory I went to see the caterer, whom I knew quite well, and asked him, “Ricky, how do you get your meals to be so tasty?”

He reached up to a shelf in the kitchen, where we were standing, and brought down a large container of a substance marked ‘Monosodium Glutamate.’ I thanked him for the information and went on my way.

I deliberately came late to the next meeting, putting in an appearance after dinner had been served. The result …. I did not drink copious quantities of water that night nor did I become bloated and everything was normal the next day.

As related earlier, large intravenous doses may cause alkalosis, hypokalemia and increased fluid retention. Well, I say that it does not require large doses nor does it have to be intravenous.

I also found that if I had a Chinese or Japanese dinner anywhere, the whole series of events was repeated. The reason? Both Chinese and Japanese foods are loaded with MSG.

Of course, now practically every restaurant or eating place in America makes full use of MSG …. and why not? MSG works like magic to make tasteless junk food taste like a chef’s dream. That is why when I have occasion to eat in a restaurant I only have a couple of soft boiled eggs, which I take out of the shell with my own hands.

Because of my personal involvement with MSG and the problem it caused, I have been keenly interested in this substance and I have picked up quite a bit of information about it. Now I frankly admit that if it were not for the doubtful safety of this product, MSG could be a boon to lousy cooks and busy homemakers …. but one is foolish to risk his health for the sake of so-called enhanced flavor.

Earlier I told you about MSG being made synthetically in Japan. Well, it might even be made synthetically in America, too …. because there is no law I know of that compels the manufacturer to make it from the wastes of corn, wheat, beets or rice. Yes, I said from the ‘wastes’ and not from the original whole grains or beets, so it is my contention that it always was a lousy product but it is much worse if it is synthetic.

The safety of MSG has been questioned for about 10 years now …. ever since a researcher by the name of Dr. John Olney discovered that MSG, when fed to mice, caused brain damage in the baby mice. This news left the food processors dazed, heart broken and devastated. Before this discovery they would put any old stuff in a can, add a few grains of MSG and, presto, they had a can of soup, stew or spaghetti that tasted like it had been made with ever loving care.

Well, all Hades broke loose! The processors ran around like chickens with their heads cut off until an experiment was rigged and MSG was given a clean bill of health by the National Research Council and National Academy of Science. As you may know or should know, neither of these are government agencies but are organizations that are controlled by the food processors, chemical corporations, soft drink manufacturers and various other industries.

Of course, they tried to make Olney look like a liar and a nasty man (which is not true, because he is a very fine researcher and an honorable individual) but they underestimated him. Naturally, the original rigged experiment was done in America, where money talks, so Olney conducted a similar experiment in Europe. It produced results that coincided with those of his earlier experiment. Thus, Olney was vindicated. He should have sued the NRC and NAS for a few million bucks, but he didn’t.

As you can see, it isn’t without cause that MSG’s safety is shrouded in doubt. In fact, I call MSG downright deadly! However, the use of MSG has skyrocketed and it is certainly the most popular food flavoring in the world today.

The originators of the synthesized product, the Japanese, are by far the greatest users of MSG and about a year ago I came across some shocking figures about stomach cancer in Japan. Most kinds of cancer in Japan have a much lower incidence than in America but stomach cancer in Japan is phenomenally higher. Do you see a connection? Of course, MSG ends up in the stomach!

The stomach cancer incidence in Japan is not just twice as high as in the United States, not three times as high, and riot four or five times as high, but more than seven times as high. That’s right, the incidence of stomach cancer in Japan is more than seven times as high as it is in the United States …. and, believe me, the rate of stomach cancer in the United States is not low. In fact, the United States has a much higher rate of stomach cancer than most of the other civilized countries.

Now I have one little bit more to add to this weird story. You know the good old soy sauce, so dear to the hearts of most people who like Oriental food? Well, its main ingredient for flavoring is — guess what? You’d never guess. Nothing else but dear old MSG! Of course, the Japanese use lots of soy sauce, so they sure do get plenty of MSG.

Don’t you think somebody ought to bring these facts to the attention of the Japanese?

I love all people — Japanese, Chinese, Burmese or Timbuktuese — and I write nasty stories like this because of my sincere love for people …. except maybe those people who make MSG.

So, what is monosodium glutamate? I’d like to close this chapter with the following quotation from the writing if someone I consider to have been a truly great man …. and a wise one, too …. J. I. Rodale:

“Monosodium glutamate is a food flavoring used quite generally today by canners and restaurants to add flavor to foods. In the first place, the need for such artificial adding of food flavoring may be due to the way our food is raised today. With the use of chemical fertilizers, hybridization and other commercial practices that have entered into farming in the last few decades, there seems to be some evidence that the taste of food is degenerating. Those who grow their food organically note a great difference in the taste of their crops. At this point I believe that monosodium glutamate is a food product itself and as such is not dangerous to health. It is extracted from proteins. But you know how things are with big business that is always looking for cheaper and more efficient ways of manufacture. One of these days they will perfect a method of producing this chemical synthetically and then there may be danger in its use.”


  1. john Reply
    October 31, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Thanks for above information as now my wife will stop using MSG in our food.

  2. Pierre Lafayette Reply
    March 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    What Adam fails to write in this article about the mice is that they were fed nothing but MSG. Imagine yourself eating nothing but MSG or a bowl of salt. It cant be done. The amounts used in food as he mentions in his article is 0.2%. All these side effects are just in his mind. Experiments were conducted with placebos in place and almost all the people failed to recognize the placebo and were getting the side effects even if MSG was not present in their food. This tells me that people are just doing it to themselves. They read that msg is bad and have these side effects and as soon as they eat chinese or japanese foods they think they have these problems. MSG as he writes in his article is taken from natural foods. There are no chemicals added to it. All they do is isolate it. Natural foods that a typical person eats everyday. Tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese all contain MSG naturally. Would you consider these foods harmful? Adam then also accuses MSG of stomach cancer. Just because the stomach cancer rate is higher in Japan than in the States. That's a ridiculous statement to make. Is MSG the only difference in between Japan and American cuisine that he can make such a bold statement. MSG is perfectly safe but if you are unsure then just don't eat is like Adam is choosing to do. But do not knock it as being harmful if you do not have your facts straight.

  3. Jean Reply
    August 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I am highly allergic to MSG. I made a mistake 6 months ago: I had three cans of Progreso (sp?) soup three days in a row to test a recipe. It says on the can NO MSG. It actually has three forms of MSG in it. In a few days I had a terrible reaction in one of my finger joints. It is still there. I now have skin cancer at that site. Stay away from MSG.

  4. dr.luke Reply
    August 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    MSG is monosodium glutamate. It is the salt form of an amino acid (glumatic acid) which is the most common amino acid in human body. Regular salt is sodium chloride. Do you think sodium chloride is bad? Anything in excess is bad. If you drink sea water too much you will die. If you do not take enough salt you could die of brain swelling. In China most food they use MSG. There is a lot of healthy Chinese than in other parts of the world that do not use MSG in food.

    The point is you can have induce fear in anyone by personal opinion.

    Enjoy life and live happy. Every one will die one day or other…

  5. Mina Reply
    August 17, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    It's unfortunate that because YOU experience problems consuming this substance that you choose to lampoon scientific studies and standards organizations, all because they've done something that YOU disagree with.

    MSG, like all food and food products, are safe for consumption in moderation.

Leave A Comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that. Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked