How bad is MSG?

by 788 · July 10, 2013 at 07:40 PM

It is artificial and has been known to cause problems, but on what level would you put this cheat? In my mind I have some sugar/vegetable oil on the low end of the spectrum and gluten/wheat at the very top.

I have been finding mixed evidence about how harmful it is even in the paleo community. So, let hear personal opinions.

How big of a cheat is MSG for you?

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17 Replies

2417 · June 11, 2012 at 02:34 AM

I'm still not sold on it being evil. I think it's a red herring for a lot of people. Glutamates abound in life. Mmmm, glutamates. The dose makes the poison and all.

But where are paleo eaters eating MSG anyway? I know my Dorito days are behind me...and gluten kicked me out of Chinese restaurants years ago...it's in processed food. Why is it even an issue?

2062 · May 09, 2012 at 08:14 PM

MSG causes me excruciating muscle pains, especially in my shoulders, neck, jaw and back. If someone proved the regular ingestion of it over a period of 6 weeks would make me look like Marilyn Monroe, I wouldn't knowingly eat anything with it.

334 · May 08, 2012 at 06:20 PM

I hate the stuff, mostly because of how it makes me feel. If I eat it, I generally end up waking several times during the night with a raging thirst.

405 · May 08, 2012 at 05:45 PM

Never allowed! I guess my biggest concern in my household with MSG IS the fact that if we have it we shortly are fighting over the bathroom, so in MY HOUSE its not allowed period. Its a poison to us. The end result is not fun! No pun indended.

40588 · May 08, 2012 at 03:25 PM

Not a concern at all really, in my mind. In experiments with folks who think they're sensitive to MSG has never shown they react any more than with placebo. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamic_acid_%28flavor%29#Safety_as_a_flavor_enhancer and associated references.

2909 · May 08, 2012 at 01:10 PM

MSG makes me feel like I took L-Carnitine because I feel really warm inside. Almost stimulant-like warm. Not sure what that means, but I haven't eaten MSG (to my knowledge) in at least 2 years.

MSG is a legitimate neurotoxin.

1498 · May 08, 2012 at 12:57 PM

I wouldnt consider it a 'cheat'. I consider it a poison and worse than wheat in the spectrum on foods but that's more my personal reaction and you are right about there being mixed evidence on the dangers of msg.

But I guess it comes down to how immune you are to these things.

I get cold sores within hours of msg in my food. I also get itchy skin so for me it's not an option to have msg.

340 · June 11, 2012 at 02:27 PM

As you can see from the responses above, MSG's effect is highly individual. Some people do not ract to it. Some do severely. For some, it's noticeable but not a source of discomfort. The effect is similar to reaction to artificial (or natural) sweeteners: stevia, splenda, aspartame, Equal, Sweete'n'Low, sugar alcohol, etc.

My guess is that there are very few severe reactions but those who do are much more vocal about it. So the effect on the Average Joe and Mean Sallie are somewhat exaggerated. Like it or not, MSG is widely used in Asian cuisine. If you visit Asian countries, you cannot help but ingest MSG. They're also widely used in prepared dishes in Asian restaurants and stores. Just look at the ingredient list for Kimchi and other foods typically thought to be wholesome. Also, look at the ingredients in your BBQ sauce: that yeast extract is MSG

I personally don't react badly to MSG but I can definitely taste the difference. The immediate effect is the salty and stinging sensation under my toungue: I don't like it and that's why I avoid it.

16813 · May 09, 2012 at 07:07 PM

It's an excitotoxin, not quite as evil as aspertame, but still, no thanks. On the positive side you can probably counter MSG's nasty effects with GABA if you suspect you've been exposed to it.

10 · May 09, 2012 at 05:11 AM

MSG? no thanks. it gives me stomach pains and the most disgusting ever wind. starts on the dot about 1.5 hours after i had any in my food and lasts around 24 hours.

whatever is in there i avoid it like the plague...

4465 · May 08, 2012 at 05:56 PM

It's never caused me problems, but if my wife accidentally eats any it'll cause a migraine.

3277 · May 08, 2012 at 03:52 PM

I read the book on MSG years ago, before going paleo. People who are sensitive to MSG (free glutamic acid) would normally avoid slow cookers because that's pretty much how you make free glutamic acid: heat + acid + time.

Now that I'm paleo, I'm slow cooking all the time and feeling pretty good/


It's easy (at least for me) to get drawn into a hazard-of-the-day mentality. I need to work hard to keep a good perspective and not get too obsessed.


3500 · May 08, 2012 at 03:51 PM

Not good, does cause issues with satiety, circadian rhythm, and hormone balance IME, but there's also the problem that MSG usually comes in forms that are also high in histamines. If you have histamine intolerance, it's a doubly bad idea to eat soy sauce, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast extract, etc.

3608 · May 08, 2012 at 03:25 PM

May induce overeating and perhaps some disproportionate lipogenesis, but I'm not sure if it's due to the effects by itself, or a result of the overfeeding.

If you think about the foods that contain MSG anyway, I can't imagine it being the worst cheat, but to me, I feel even if you ask for no-MSG, the food quality you receive is still pretty dismal (I'm talking asian restaurants in general). If it's not too dismal, everything's probably made in soybean oil at wok-temperatures (very very hot).

Steamed fish is a safe bet for me (despite the soy sauce and maybe oil they add to it).

Hey, you do the best you can right?

119 · July 10, 2013 at 07:40 PM

Based on my own experience, I put aspartame at the head of the worst-ingredients list, with MSG second, then HFCS, pasta, margarine, cola and other soft drinks, drinks, fried flour and fried cornmeal. Other cheats are really not usually a big deal in moderation for me.

-2 · July 10, 2013 at 06:22 PM

bbq sauce isnt thought to be wholesome u fkn moron

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