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On MSG and Chinese Restaurant Syndrome


Stashed in: China!, Health, Wellness, Medical, Society, Chinoi Moderne, Taste!, Lucky Peach

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The journal gave his letter the title “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” and then printed a number of follow-up letters in later issues under the same title. That’s part of the reason that these anecdotal letters to the editor got more attention than they deserved. The media picked up on the catchy title, neglected the fact that the letters were mostly speculation, and encouraged the belief that MSG was known to cause these symptoms in people who go to Chinese restaurants.

MSG is a common ingredient in foods, and not just in Chinese restaurants; it occurs naturally in many of the foods we love.

MSG is an acronym for monosodium glutamate, the sodium salt of glutamic acid. We’re familiar with sodium from salt, which is sodium chloride. That’s innocuous enough. It’s the glutamic-acid part that makes MSG what it is. Glutamic acid is an amino acid, which are the building blocks of proteins. Our bodies are built out of proteins. The muscle fibers that move our bodies are proteins, the tiny motors that move molecules within each of our cells are proteins.

The flavor of MSG is so distinctive and so important that it has its own name, one that’s become one of the most talked-about things among professional cooks in the last couple of decades. That name is umami.

The flavor of MSG is so distinctive and so important that it has its own name, one that’s become one of the most talked-about things among professional cooks in the last couple of decades. That name is umami.

It gives me headaches, unfortunately. 

you are allergic to flavor!

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