The monosodium glutamate or additive E-621 was associated with the Chinese restaurant syndrome in 1968. We tell you everything that is known about this substance.
During the last decades, the use of the monosodium glutamate or additive E-621 has been put in between said, not for its low functionality, but rather for its safety. In fact, monosodium glutamate is used quite commonly in processed foods to enhance its flavor, and in frozen foods to make it appear fresher. Likewise, it also has the ability to remove the metallic taste from canned foods.
Today we will explain exactly what monosodium glutamate is, what is known as "Chinese restaurant syndrome" and whether or not it is really safe to use this food additive surrounded by controversy.
What is the monosodium glutamate?
On a chemical level, monosodium glutamate or MSG contains 78% glutamic acid, 21% sodium and 1% other substances. Its mission, as we have already mentioned, is to "trick" the human palate into believing that food has less flavor. In fact, monosodium glutamate is commonly used in the food industry because it is one of those responsible for the umami or fifth flavor, first described as such in 1908, although the ancient Romans already used glutamate to enhance the flavor of their meals. Said flavor in Japanese means "tasty" or "delicious", something that does not match the goal of monosodium glutamate.
On the other hand, it should be noted that although monosodium glutamate is present in many foods, those labeled do not always refer to it as such. We can see that in some foods they call it E-621 additive, MSG, Chinese salt, ajinomoto, or directly umami.
Among the foods that stand out the most are packaged broths, creams and soups and in many frozen products with the aim of increasing their palatability, that is, that they have a better flavor and we enjoy eating them more. This in turn is dangerous, as indicated by a Spanish study carried out in 2005, as this additive is capable of increasing the desire to "repeat" or eat more up to 40% by activating a specific set of neurons at the brain level. This does not imply that the additive is unsafe, but it does indicate that we must be careful with those foods that contain it, since we can relatively lose control when eating them.
Monosodium glutamate and Chinese restaurant syndrome
Another reason for which monosodium glutamate is known is for its potential to cause what is known as " Chinese restaurant syndrome ", a set of ailments that include facial redness, sweating, headache and dizziness after eating food rich in this additive; although at the moment it seems that only certain individuals more sensitive to MSG than others suffer from it , since there is no scientific evidence to support that this additive is the direct cause of the ailments, as stated in a review published in 2006 in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners .
In fact, the first time this possible syndrome was named was in 1968, when it was described by Dr. Ho Man Kwok in the New England Journal of Medicine. The poor doctor noticed all these symptoms in his own body, and ruled out that the origin was the soy sauce or Chinese wine used to cook the dishes (since he used them in other meals on his own without suffering the symptoms), so He ended up blaming monosodium glutamate for the whole problem.
For this reason, several studies have subsequently been carried out to find out if MSG is really dangerous to health, since it has been related to other symptoms such as headaches and migraines, muscle spasms, nausea and even allergies. In fact, in 1995 the Foods & Drugs Administration commissioned a study on the matter from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology with the aim of knowing if it should ban the use of the additive, but the conclusion of the FASEB report could not reach claim that the additive was so harmful; however, he did state that there was a subset of healthy individuals who might be more sensitive to high doses of MSG simply mixed they are water, without food.
Is it safe to use monosodium glutamate?
Like all the additives and chemical substances that surround us, monosodium glutamate also has a lethal dose, although it would be very difficult to get to take it: a thousand times the recommended amount to be consumed in a single day; the lethal dose would be between 15 and 18 grams per kilo of body weight.
Currently, it is difficult but not impossible to avoid the consumption of this food additive, so studies on its safety have continued. On the one hand, a study published in 1998 evaluated the safety of MSG, this time debunking the existence of a population group more sensitive to it, and suggesting that it is not possible to confirm toxic, carcinogenic or reproductive health effects.
On the other hand, a study published in the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Allergy in 2000, after studying 130 individuals who considered themselves sensitive to monosodium glutamate, concluded that only 2 of these participants could show significant reactions to the additive in comparison to placebo when increasing doses of it dissolved in water were used. In fact, these two participants showed no reaction when the MSG dose was added to the food.
Yes, it is true that negative effects have been observed in studies with rodents, but always using extremely high doses and through the bloodstream (and not by consumption in water or food), so currently the United States FDA has not established a Limit daily dose, although in Europe consumption up to 12 grams per day is considered safe, according to the consensus report published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007.
The latest studies on the effects of monosodium glutamate
To conclude, the European Food Safety Authority recently carried out a re-evaluation of this additive and others this year 2017, with the aim of discussing possible changes in the legislation on its use. According to their conclusions, it is safe to take 30 mg / kg / day of glutamate, that is, between 2 and 3 grams per day, since this dose is below the toxicity detected in some recent studies. According to their data, the " symptomatic complex for MSG or Chinese restaurant syndrome” Can occur from 42.9 mg / kg / day, headaches have been associated with doses of 85.8 mg / kg / day, increased blood pressure is associated with taking 150 mg / kg / day and increase in body insulin with intake of more than 143 mg / kg / day.
For this reason, EFSA advises to review the maximum levels allowed in foods such as bakery products, soups, broths, sauces, meat, meat products, condiments and food supplements.
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