"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.
"I like to encourage my kids to eat a little healthier, so I'll sprinkle a little supersalt in there. That stuff is really powerful. For example, I had a whole-wheat pizza—and my kids hate whole wheat—so I put a little supersalt in the tomato sauce, and they sucked that whole thing down. Broccoli is tremendous if you add butter, garlic, and supersalt," Witherly told Business Insider.
In short, Witherly says the oft-maligned MSG is perfectly safe.
"We had research at UC Davis, when I was there, where we drank tumblers of it at about 25 grams, and nothing happened."
Can he be right? As it turns out, a report dating from back to 1968 seems to be the root of MSG's bad rap. It blamed something called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome"—with symptoms that include headache, skin flushing, chest pain, and numbness—on the stuff. But Witherly says recent studies have not found anything wrong with MSG and the American Chemical Society agrees: "MSG can temporarily affect a select few when consumed in huge quantities on an empty stomach, but it's perfectly safe for the vast majority of people."
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.
Maybe we all need to blame Chinese Restaurant Syndrome on the fact that we can't stop eating the deliciousness that is Chinese food, and stop blaming MSG for our woes.