Monosodium L-glutamate: a double-blind study and review

Food Chem Toxicol. 1993 Dec;31(12):1019-35. doi: 10.1016/0278-6915(93)90012-n.


71 healthy subjects were treated with placebos and monosodium L-glutamate (MSG) doses of 1.5, 3.0 and 3.15 g/person, which represented a body mass-adjusted dose range of 0.015-0.07 g/kg body weight before a standardized breakfast over 5 days. The study used a rigorous randomized double-blind crossover design that controlled for subjects who had MSG after-tastes. Capsules and specially formulated drinks were used as vehicles for placebo and MSG treatments. Subjects mostly had no responses to placebo (86%) and MSG (85%) treatments. Sensations, previously attributed to MSG, did not occur at a significantly higher rate than did those elicited by placebo treatment. A significant (P < 0.05) negative correlation between MSG dose and after-effects was found. The profound effect of food in negating the effects of large MSG doses was demonstrated. The common practice of extrapolating food-free experimental results to 'in use' situations was called into question. An exhaustive review of previous methodologies identified the strong taste of MSG as the factor invalidating most 'blind' and 'double-blind' claims by previous researchers. The present study led to the conclusion that 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' is an anecdote applied to a variety of postprandial illnesses; rigorous and realistic scientific evidence linking the syndrome to MSG could not be found.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Beverages
  • Capsules
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mouth / drug effects
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Paresthesia / chemically induced
  • Sodium Glutamate / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Glutamate / adverse effects*
  • Taste
  • Tongue / drug effects


  • Capsules
  • Sodium Glutamate