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News about MSG and Umami

By October 11, 2021March 22nd, 2022News
    • The Washington Post: “Why You Shouldn’t Fear MSG, an Unfairly Maligned and Worthwhile Seasoning”

      MSG news

      “Monosodium glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, has been around for more than a century. A potent purveyor of umami, the fifth taste that people have dedicated entire restaurants to, the seasoning is still often misunderstood, despite the articles and scientific studies over the decades that clear its name.”

      “One of the many benefits of MSG is that it lets you more acutely pull the umami lever in the kitchen. Though you can also add umami through other foods high in glutamates, sometimes you don’t want the flavor or texture of that ingredient. Some may balk at the one-dimensionality of it, but just as there are times when you want to add sugar instead of ripe fruit for sweetness, there are times when MSG might be more appropriate than anchovies. By helping you more precisely tweak the flavors of a dish, MSG is a powerful tool for cooks of all levels.”

      “First, you may be thinking, ‘But I’m allergic to it!’ Yes, one report shows people displaying symptoms ‘that may occur in some sensitive individuals who consume 3 grams or more of MSG without food,’ per the FDA. ‘However, a typical serving of a food with added MSG contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG. Consuming more than 3 grams of MSG [3/4 teaspoon] without food at one time is unlikely.’ Furthermore, ‘Although many people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions,’ the FDA states.” … Read more.

    • Discover magazine: “MSG Isn’t Bad For You, According to Science”

      “Pass the MSG: Monosodium glutamate is just sodium and the amino acid glutamate, which is found in nature. Yet even after scientists have debunked MSG’s supposed health effects, the stigma persists.”

      “Americans likely know MSG best as a component of Chinese food. It also has an unfounded reputation for causing headaches, weakness or numbness after eating dishes seasoned with it. But not only has research failed to connect MSG to any ill symptoms or health problems, the flavor agent is also one of the most widely-consumed food additives around. MSG is a staple ingredient in commercially produced soups, chips, crackers — anything that can benefit from a punch of savoriness.”

      “Some of the world’s largest food safety governing bodies have approved the ingredient, too. The FDA considers MSG to be “generally recognized as safe.” Many other organizations have decided the same, including JECFA, an international scientific committee administered jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization.” … Read more.

    • EurekAlert (press release): “MSG promotes significant sodium reduction and enjoyment of better-for-you foods, according to new study”

      reduce sodium with MSG

      “A new study published in the Journal of Food Science suggests monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be used to significantly reduce sodium while also promoting the enjoyment of better-for-you foods like grains and vegetables.”

      “Ninety percent of Americans consume too much sodium and often have misperceptions about the taste of nutritious foods creating a barrier to healthy eating. MSG (or umami seasoning) can be one tool to encourage healthier dietary patterns.”

      “Just as the substitution of butter with olive oil can help to reduce saturated fat intake, MSG can be used as a partial replacement for salt to reduce sodium intake,” says Dr. Jean-Xavier Guinard, Professor of Sensory Science, Co-Director of the Coffee Center at the University of California, Davis, and a lead investigator in this study. “MSG has two-thirds less sodium than table salt and imparts umami – a savory taste. Taste is a key factor in what people decide to eat. Using MSG as a replacement for some salt in the diet and to increase the appeal of nutritious foods can help make healthy eating easier, likely leading to a positive impact on health.”… Read more.

    • The Washington Post: “Embrace Umami and Learn to Add its Savory Goodness to Your Foods”

      “Umami is valuable to cooks for many reasons: it draws out the flavors of other ingredients in a dish, adds a depth and satisfying savory flavor, balances the overall taste of a dish and reduces the need for additional salt.”

      The U.S. government says this about umami seasoning (monosodium glutamate): “FDA [U.S. Food & Drug Administration] considers the addition of MSG to foods to be ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS). Although many people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions,” according to the agency. “The glutamate in MSG is chemically indistinguishable from glutamate present in food proteins. Our bodies ultimately metabolize both sources of glutamate in the same way.”

      “The Umami Information Center, founded by a group of researchers in Japan in the 1980s, notes that umami has three main characteristics: It is experienced across the tongue, lingers in the mouth and promotes saliva, which is why umami is often associated with a particularly noticeable mouthfeel.”

      “Umami itself is not an ingredient. It’s not something you find in food. Rather, it’s a reaction to and perception of what we’re eating.”… Read more.

    • BBC explores “The Man Who Discovered Umami.”

      discovery of umami

      More than a hundred years later, scientists around the world embrace the fact that umami is real, and just as much a basic taste as the others (sweet, salty, sour, and bitter). It’s not just found in seaweed: we get umami from tomatoes, meat, broths, cheeses, and many other foods. “How did this enigmatic yet brash taste, hidden in plain sight for so many years, finally achieve recognition?”… Read more.
    • U.S. News & World Report magazine: “Scientists Have Known MSG Is Safe for Decades. Why Don’t Most Americans?”

      MSG: You may think of it as “that terrible-for-you substance in Chinese and packaged foods that many products proudly proclaim they’re made without. But the truth is, MSG’s bad reputation isn’t deserved. In fact, studies show that the ingredient actually has nutritional benefits and adds an umami flavor to dishes.” “MSG, which stands for monosodium glutamate, is simply a combination of sodium and glutamate, an amino acid that is abundant in nature and naturally present in many everyday foods like tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and even breast milk. The body digests the MSG seasoning and glutamates in foods the same way and cannot tell the difference between the two. So why is our understanding of the substance all off?”… Read more about why some American chefs have started putting MSG shakers back on tables and using it in their cuisine.

    • A new study concludes that food allergies are not as prevalent as many believe.

      A recent study reported in the January 4, 2019 JAMA Network Open evaluated the prevalence and severity of food allergies among American adults. The study surveyed 40,443 people via internet or telephone and analyzed their answers to evaluate how many of the respondents have credible food allergies, and how many were medically tested by their doctors. Researchers found that although 19% of the surveyed adults believed they have food allergies, only 10.8% had a credible food allergy based on the symptoms described or tests of IgE-mediated reactions. The most common allergens listed were shellfish, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, and fin fish. This study endeavored to estimate the distribution, severity, and factors associated with adult allergies. It concluded that adults with suspected food allergies should receive appropriate medical testing to confirm any allergies, and thus that they are not avoiding certain foods unnecessarily, which could diminish their quality of life. Read study details.

    • New research evaluates umami’s positive effect on appetite control and potentially weight management.

      According to a report in the July 6, 2018 issue of ScienceDaily: “Previous research in humans studied the effects of umami broths on appetite. Experimental studies have shown that intake of a broth or soup supplemented with monosodium glutamate (MSG), a sodium salt of glutamate, prior to a meal can decrease appetite and food intake, especially in women with a propensity to overeat and gain weight.” Read more about how the umami taste is important for overall health.

    • Self magazine helps calm misplaced fears about MSG.

      migraine headache

      “Thanks to the internet, we have the ability to both debunk old wives’ tales and make up new ones. But no matter how many efforts are made by science writers, there is always someone who says MSG gives them headaches. Or it gives them intestinal problems. Or the MSG ate their homework. (It’s worth noting that some people may have sensitivity to MSG when ingesting it in large amounts, but the chances of something like this happening is so small that MSG sensitivity isn’t widespread)…” Read more from this science reporter about the safety of MSG.
    • New Yorker reporter visits the ‘home’ of umami’s discovery.

      “Glutamate occurs naturally in all the foods that we associate with umami: aged hard cheeses, tomatoes, mushrooms, dried and fermented fish and fish sauces, and savory condiments like Marmite and Worcestershire sauce. Like any mindful cook, I keep a wedge of two-year-aged parmesan in my cheese drawer and a tube of tomato paste curled up in the corner of the butter shelf, knowing that pasta will always taste better under a glutamate-rich snowfall of parmesan, and that a squiggle of tomato paste can deepen any sauce or stew. But, sometimes, you don’t want a dish to be cheesy or tomatoey; sometimes you just want something to taste like itself, only transcendently better. For that, nothing but pure MSG will do. It is to savory flavor what refined sugar is to sweet.” Read more from this reporter, who writes for The New Yorker magazine, and about her recent visit to Tokyo where she spent a morning “paying my respects at the altar of umami.”

    • Insights from Washington Post news analysis: Why do some Americans try to avoid MSG even though myths about this ingredient are proven to be false?

      Myths vs Facts

      “A chemical variant of glutamate — a substance that occurs naturally in high-umami foods, such as Parmesan cheese, walnuts, soy sauce and tomatoes — monosodium glutamate has been widely eaten since the early 20th century, when a Japanese scientist first distilled it from seaweed.” “Numerous high-quality studies of MSG have failed to demonstrate significant symptoms, even in people who claim to suffer from MSG reactions. In the 1990s, the FDA commissioned an independent review that found MSG only caused adverse effects in a small minority of “sensitive individuals” who ate large amounts on an empty stomach.”… Read more about U.S. consumer perceptions and misinformation about MSG.
    • “Umami Dearest” by Cook’s Illustrated: Science! newsletter 

      “Umami is perhaps more subtle than the other four tastes (sour, sweet, bitter, and salty), but when it is present, it’s typically unmistakable. There are other molecules that can contribute umami to foods, but the most important compound is glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid. Glutamic acid is concentrated in animal proteins, which is why it adds a “meaty” flavor to dishes even when no meat is present. But its power is more fundamental than that; much like salt, it can simply add depth and intensity to a dish, enhancing the presence of other flavors. “Glutamic acid isn’t found only in meat; it’s ubiquitous in nature and shows up in a wide variety of other common foodstuffs. And here at Cook’s Illustrated, we use a wide variety of ingredients—particularly those that are dried and/or fermented to concentrate their glutamate content—to boost umami in dishes. We often use them in tandem with multiple glutamate-rich or umami-enhancing ingredients since each brings its own unique character to a dish.”

    • FoodNext addresses misconceptions about food without chemicals.

      “Almost every day, we can see some advertisements in newspapers and magazines stating that our products do not contain ‘chemical substances’. These products are usually prepared for food, cosmetics and textiles. But whether we like it or not, all raw materials are essentially made up of chemicals. Therefore, those advertising slogans are simply nonsense, but they also shift their focus and ignore more important issues, such as whether goods are good for health, nutrition, safety, and environmental protection. To a certain extent, the effectiveness of such advertising is based on ignorance and knowledge of science, and even worse, they deliberately deny the accepted facts. These advertisements are obviously saying that all chemical reactions and chemical substances are harmful to the human body; they also imply that the more direct the product is taken from nature, the better it will be for us. Unfortunately, these are all arguments that distort the facts.” Read this thought-provoking article.

    • What is it? What is it for? Where is it located? Discovered in Japan more than a century ago, its name means “delight” and is delicate, soft and subtle. It adds to the sweet, sour, salty and bitter that we all know.

      It is a very tenuous taste that extends through the tongue, tends to last longer than other tastes and makes us salivate for longer. It has been more than a century since the umami taste was discovered in Japan, but this flavor is now catching the attention of great chefs and food experts. It is a delicate, soft and subtle flavor, which extends through the tongue, covering it completely, and that is persistent and “makes mouth water”. This is how some prestigious chefs who have experienced and recognized umami describe their characteristics. Read the full news article: Umami, the Fifth Flavor published by the Spanish Press Agency EFE.

    • Web Japan has recently completed a new video explaining the discovery of umami and how umami is appreciated in Japanese cuisine – and in cuisines around the world.

      Umami and Washoku  

      The video also provides an excellent explanation of Washoku, which is the traditional dietary culture of the Japanese: “Japan is a country of lush and bountiful forests, surrounded on all sides by the sea. Washoku has developed thanks to the blessings of these rich natural surroundings as well as the continuous pursuit of perfection by Japanese cooks, evolving into a cuisine now highly praised all over the world.” The new video is published in English and several other languages. Web Japan was launched with the aim of helping people around the world get to know more about Japanese culture, society, history, and nature. It has become one of Japan’s leading websites for information on the country. Web Japan is sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and operated by a Japanese non-government organization. Related: read this newly published scientific review of “The Role of the Japanese Traditional Diet in Healthy and Sustainable Dietary Patterns around the World.” (pdf)
    • The headline in a recent article on VICE, a digital media channel in Canada, declared, “We Should All Be Adding MSG to Our Food, according to this Food Scientist.”

      Hold the MSG, may become a statement of the past if food scientist Steve Witherly is to be believed. Witherly says MSG—aka monosodium glutamate, a sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is a non-essential amino acid—is actually good for you. He even calls it “supersalt” and tries to get his kids to eat more of it. Witherly says MSG is healthy for kids because a dash of it can encourage them to eat more vegetables. And contrary to most people’s perception, MSG occurs naturally in tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and other food; it is known to enhance flavor and packs an umami blast.” Read more about why this article advises “we should stop blaming MSG for our woes.”

    • A recent article in Business Insider, noting that monosodium glutamate (MSG) occurs naturally in many flavorful foods, poses the question, “How do you get free glutamates in your food naturally?”

      Spinach Lasagna 

      “The article explains: “Monosodium glutamate is a powerful flavor enhancer that, despite what you may have heard, is widely accepted in the scientific community as a safe additive. In fact, MSG or other ‘free glutamates’ occur naturally in many of the most flavorful foods, some of which have been used to enhance flavor in cooking for millennia.” Read more about “natural MSG.”
    • International Food Information Council issues a new Fact Sheet on MSG, titled, “Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): From A to Umami.”

      “Think about a bowl of hot pasta with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, a freshly grilled steak with a rich mushroom sauce, or stir-fried seafood and chicken with crisp vegetables in a savory soy sauce. In all of these dishes, there is a common flavor denominator that may be surprising to many: monosodium glutamate, also called MSG. This fact sheet provides everything you need to know about MSG and its umami flavor.” Read more about the Fact Sheet.

    • News article: “Feeding Fussy Kids: Top Five Ways to Get Them Eating Better Food,” published in The Guardian

      Umami for fussy kids 

      One of the five ways is to “use umami.”The author, Adam Liaw, states, “Umami (the strong, savory flavor known as the “fifth taste”, after salt, sweet, sour and bitter) is a fundamental part of what makes food tasty.” He adds, “It allows you to add great flavour without needing to load things up with extra sugar, fat or salt.” Read the full article.
    • The presence of MSG in some samples of noodles in India has become a labeling matter, not a safety concern, because the product indicates “no added MSG.”

      Elevated levels of lead are a safety concern because lead above the permissible amount induces toxic effects, while the presence of MSG is a labeling matter because the product indicates “no added MSG.” These two issues are completely separate even though many media reports have not made the distinction clear. Read the IGIS statement.

    • Umami Information Center holds third annual umami lecture at the Culinary Institute of America.

      Japanese cuisine, which relies heavily on the pure umami soup stock dashi, has been gaining more and more popularity. And along the fame of the Japanese cuisine, umami (pleasant savory taste), the fifth basic taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter, has also been attaining recognition. Read about teaching culinary professionals more about umami.

    • MSG has gotten a bad rap for “causing” allergies – is it justified? 

      food allergies 

      “I see people all the time who are absolutely convinced that their allergic reactions are caused by MSG–it causes this, it causes that,” says allergist and immunologist Katharine Woessner of the Scripps Clinic Medical Group, who conducted a study on MSG’s effects. But, she says, “I think there’s a great misunderstanding.”“Indeed, most scientists today agree that the notion that MSG causes sickness in humans is unfounded.” Read this informative article from Science Friday.
    • New study finds that umami flavor promotes feelings of fullness, could help to curb appetite.

      “If you’re feeling unsatisfied after a meal, perhaps it wasn’t flavorful enough. A new study suggests that the taste umami may actually make you feel more full and satisfied…. “For a quick dash of umami, cooks have turned to monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer that’s added to soups and other foods. Now a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that MSG can make food more appetizing and therefore help diners feel more full.” Read news summaries of the study.

    • Umami taste important for overall health. 

      umami aids nutrition for elderly 

      In a recent study, published in the journal Flavour, scientists from Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry in Japan developed an umami taste sensitivity test and used it on 44 elderly patients. The taste tests revealed that the elderly patients who had lost their taste for umami also complained of appetite and weight loss. Read this report from BBC News, covering a new study investigating the ability of elderly people to taste umami.