Update on food safety of monosodium l-glutamate (MSG)

Pathophysiology. 2017 Dec;24(4):243-249. doi: 10.1016/j.pathophys.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Sep 18.


Objective: This evidence-based safety review of the flavor enhancer monosodium l-glutamate (MSG) was triggered by its global use and recent studies expressing some safety concerns.

Methodology: This article obtained information through search of evidence-based scientific databases, especially the US National Library of Medicine NIH.

Results: (A) MSG is a water-soluble salt of glutamate, a non-essential amino acid, normally synthesized in the body and prevalent in protein foods. (B) MSG is utilized world-wide for its "umami" taste and flavor enhancement qualities, (C) the human body does not discriminate between glutamate present in food and that added as seasoning, (D) glutamate metabolism is compartmentalized in the human body without reported ethnic differences, (E) glutamate does not passively cross biological membranes, (F) food glutamate is completely metabolized by gut cells as energy source and serves as key substrate for other important metabolites in the liver, (G) normal food use of MSG is dose-dependent and self-limiting without elevation in plasma glutamate, (H) the recent EFSA acceptable daily intake (30mg/kg body weight/day) is not attainable when MSG is consumed at normal dietary level, (I) scientists have not been able to consistently elicit reactions in double-blind studies with 'sensitive' individuals using MSG or placebo in food.

Conclusion: Based on the above observations (A-I), high quality MSG is safe for all life-cycle stages without respect to ethnic origin or culinary background. MSG researchers are advised to employ appropriate scientific methodologies, consider glutamate metabolism and its normal food use before extrapolating pharmacological rodent studies to humans.

Keywords: Flavor enhancer; Food vehicle; Humans; Monosodium l-glutamate; Safety; Scientific evidence.

Publication types

  • Review