Asked by: Erica Evans, Worthing
MSG, or monosodium glutamate, certainly has a bad reputation, conjuring up images of takeaways and highly processed foods. But this ‘umami’ flavour enhancer – first extracted from seaweed in 1908 – contains only sodium (one of the ingredients of common table salt) and glutamic acid, which is naturally found in foods such as mushrooms, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.
A popular belief is that MSG can cause headaches and a generally ‘icky’ feeling known as ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’. But this is a myth: scientists have found no evidence linking typical MSG amounts to headaches, or any other health problems for that matter. Just like salt, a sensible amount is perfectly safe, and tasty too.
Giles is a geneticist at the University of Cambridge