Is MSG really all that bad for you?

Monosodium glutamate, aka MSG, has gotten a bad rap, but is the food additive really bad for you? The American Chemical Society breaks it down.

Anthony Domanico
CNET freelancer Anthony Domanico is passionate about all kinds of gadgets and apps. When not making words for the Internet, he can be found watching Star Wars or "Doctor Who" for like the zillionth time. His other car is a Tardis.
Anthony Domanico

Monosodium glutamate, widely known to us as MSG, has a bad rap. The food additive, which has been used for decades in Chinese food, canned vegetables, and processed meat, has been associated with several medical symptoms including headache, sweating, and numbness in some people, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

As a result, many believe that MSG should be avoided at all costs. With a growing number of people trying to avoid the additive, some restaurants have decided to go MSG-free and even use MSG-free labels in their advertising. But is MSG really even all that bad for you?

A new video from the American Chemical Society's Reactions YouTube page explains that not only is MSG perfectly safe for the vast majority of people but shows how MSG, or, more accurately glutamate, is found in tons of natural, protein-rich foods. Plus, glutamate occurs naturally within our own bodies as we process and metabolize food. The whole monosodium part of MSG is so we can easily sprinkle it in our foods.

The video notes that the medical symptoms listed above are valid, but says they only occur in a select few people when consumed in high quantities on an empty stomach. So while MSG can make some people feel sick under the right circumstances, remember to take criticisms of MSG with...a grain of salt.

Is MSG harmful to your health? Probably not, says science. Video screenshot by Anthony Domanico/CNET