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Monosodium glutamate (MSG) adverse reaction in Wikipedia

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Chinese restaurant syndrome". (Source - Retrieved 2006-09-07 14:27:10 from


Chinese restaurant syndrome, also called monosodium glutamate symptom complex, is a collection of symptoms which may include headache, flushing, sweating, and a sensation of pressure in the mouth or face. Less common, but more serious symptoms attributed to the syndrome have included swelling of the throat, chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. Most people recover from mild cases of Chinese restaurant syndrome with no serious harm. Symptoms of CRS can be eliminated by supplying a normal amount of vitamin B6 before consuming a meal rich in MSG (PMID 6724532).

The term

In the 1960s some Americans who ate at Chinese restaurants noticed an irritation after finishing their meals. Symptoms included drowsiness, tingling, headaches, and slight numbness on the back. The large majority of these symptoms were benign, and went away after a while. The phenomenon soon got the name "Chinese restaurant syndrome".

The synonym "monosodium glutamate symptom complex" originated from the observation that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is often used in most Chinese restaurants. MSG is a common flavor enhancer, used in a wide range of processed foods and recipes made at restaurants and homes in many cuisines. The name Chinese restaurant syndrome refers to the initial discovery of the phenomenon, but Chinese restaurant food is not the sole source.

MSG is a natural ingredient chemically derived from plants, such as kombu seaweed, used in traditional East Asian cuisines, so the material became a part of Chinese and other asian dishes. Factory-made MSG was first created in Japan in the early 1900's by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, who later formed the first MSG manufacturing company, Ajinomoto, Co. In World War II, American soldiers were amazed at how much better the Japanese rations tasted, and the US military investigated, finding MSG to be the cause. By the early 1950s, many major US food companies such as Pillsbury, Campbells, Oscar Mayer, Libby, General Foods, and more, were using MSG in their processed foods, and MSG was becoming available in pure form on supermarket shelves. Today, Ajinomoto remains the world's largest manufacturer of MSG.

Although the symptoms were rarely serious, consumers raised flags and many stopped eating MSG out of the belief that it was harmful. Some restaurants have since promoted themselves as MSG-free places to eat.

Scientific controversy

Despite the general perception that MSG is the causative agent of Chinese restaurant syndrome, studies have consistently shown that MSG is not significantly associated with symptoms of the syndrome (PMID 10736382). Instead of assigning the syndrome to one specific cause, one scientific review suggests that the Chinese restaurant syndrome is a name applied to a variety of illnesses which occur after eating, each of which may have independent causes (PMID 8282275).


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