At first, I thought the headaches and dizziness I was getting were related to stress. I had recently graduated from college, moved to a new city and started a new job.
After a while, though, I began to notice a pattern. I typically got the symptoms after eating from a salad buffet or after having certain Chinese foods.
I did some research and discovered I was reacting to monosodium glutamate (MSG). Since that time, I have paid close attention to ingredient labels and restaurant menu descriptions that contain MSG.
However, keeping MSG out of my diet – and now my family’s diet – is much trickier than I initially thought. MSG still is in many of the foods found on our supermarket shelves and on our restaurant menus. The dangerous food additive is used in soups, meats, salad dressings, canned goods, frozen entrees and even crackers.
What is MSG?
Monosodium glutamate first hit the American food market in the 1960s as a seasoning and “meat tenderizing” powder called “Accent.”
Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese scientist who identified the natural flavor enhancing substance found in seaweed, learned how to mass produce MSG back in 1908. MSG is the “sodium salt of the common amino acid glutamic acid,” according to the definition by the FDA, which acknowledges it can cause “headaches, numbness, flushing, tingling, palpitations, and drowsiness.”
MSG, which itself has no taste, uses umami, one of the five basic tastes, to make food taste savory.