Effect of systemic monosodium glutamate (MSG) on headache and pericranial muscle sensitivity

Cephalalgia. 2010 Jan;30(1):68-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2982.2009.01881.x.


We conducted a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover study to investigate the occurrence of adverse effects such as headache as well as pain and mechanical sensitivity in pericranial muscles after oral administration of monosodium glutamate (MSG). In three sessions, 14 healthy men drank sugar-free soda that contained either MSG (75 or 150 mg/kg) or NaCl (24 mg/kg, placebo). Plasma glutamate level, pain, pressure pain thresholds and tolerance levels, blood pressure (BP), heart rate and reported adverse effects were assessed for 2 h. No muscle pain or robust changes in mechanical sensitivity were detected, but there was a significant increase in reports of headache and subjectively reported pericranial muscle tenderness after MSG. Systolic BP was elevated in the high MSG session compared with low MSG and placebo. These findings add new information to the concept of MSG headache and craniofacial pain sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Facial Muscles / drug effects*
  • Facial Pain / chemically induced*
  • Food Additives / administration & dosage
  • Food Additives / adverse effects
  • Food Additives / metabolism
  • Headache / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Threshold / drug effects*
  • Placebos
  • Sodium Glutamate / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Glutamate / adverse effects*
  • Sodium Glutamate / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Food Additives
  • Placebos
  • Sodium Glutamate