Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Allergy Unit

Student research

Reactions to MSG

Carmen Pavia
Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of New South Wales
Supervisors: Robert Loblay, Anne Swain, Ken Buckle
November 2001

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MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, the most common amino acid in nature. Glutamate, the active part of MSG, is naturally present in many foods, including tomatoes, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. Manufactured monosodium glutamate is added to foods as a flavour enhancer (No. 621). The term "Chinese restaurant syndrome" (CRS) was first introduced in 1968. Numerous studies have been carried out to ascertain the validity of the existing evidence supporting this syndrome. These studies have not developed a conclusive position on CRS.

The present study explored some issues surrounding MSG intolerance by carrying out a database analysis, two clinical studies and a questionnaire. It was found that in the population assessed (at RPAH), MSG intolerance is a common disorder which is normally associated to other food intolerances. Isolated MSG intolerance was rare in this population. The prevalence of documented MSG intolerance in the community remains to be studied.

The method for food intolerance analysis in use at RPAH was found to give reproducible results. The importance of having a defined baseline diet is still to be confirmed.

From the MSG questionnaire it was concluded that the population knowledge about the nature of MSG was incomplete and in many instances incorrect. Furthermore people who self-report MSG intolerance often do not have a clear grasp of what MSG is and in which food products it is present.