MSG Allergy - A Few Facts
MSG allergy is not a real condition, although ingesting MSG does affect a certain percentage of the population. MSG, shorthand for monosodium glutamate, is widely used as a taste enhancing agent in foods, and is best known as an ingredient found in many if not most Asian or Chinese dishes. But the fact remains, MSG is not an allergen, and the term MSG allergy is a misnomer.
Does that mean that if you eat a meal at a Chinese restaurant, and have a reaction to the food, you are imagining it? That's hardly likely. The truth is, there are people who have a sensitivity to MSG, but that's not the same as an allergic reaction, though admittedly the symptoms can be very similar. If you do suffer from sensitivity to MSG, you probably don't care if it's an allergic reaction or not. It's an unpleasant feeling..
Allergy vs Sensitivity - So what's the difference? The difference is, in an allergic reaction, the immune system is coming into play, sending out antibodies, and sending them out in excessive amounts, often to the wrong organs. In the case of MSG sensitivity, no antibodies are produced by the immune system as the immune system doesn't recognize MSG as a threat. What MSG does is cause nerve cells to fire. For most people these are nerve cells associated with taste, which is why MSG enhances taste. It just so happens that a small percentage of the population, those who have a sensitivity to MSG, will experience a higher level of nerve stimulation, and not only a higher level, but in many cases a very unpleasant level. It's no different than one person taking a drink of alcohol and feeling a slight buzz, while the next person, drinking the same amount, may actually get quite drunk. The latter has a higher sensitivity to alcohol in the bloodstream.
It's not too likely that MSG will be removed from the market soon, if ever. There may be attempts to keep it from being used in certain foods that the bulk of the population purchases, but as long as we purchase food because it tastes so good, and one of the reasons for that is MSG, it could take quite a battle to have MSG removed. The other consideration is, for the most part, people can choose the food they want to purchase or don't want to purchase, and if the label on a food item says it contains MSG, and the shopper has an MSG sensitivity, the shopper always has the option of not purchasing it.
MSG's Contributions To Diseases And Disorders - Monosodium glutamate still is not without controversy, even though the concept of MSG allergy has been disproved for some time. MSG has been linked, sometimes correctly, sometimes not, to a degree of conditions and disorders. In some instances MSG may not cause an illness or disorder, but may help set the stage for one to occur. MSG does not cause alcohol addiction for example but seems in some ways to grease the skids. The same can be said for various types of cancer, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, and hypothyroidism, to name just a few. In some instances there appears to be a link between MSG and the disorder, in other instances there is merely a suspicion.
Should you stop eating foods that contain MSG? That's a question only you can answer, though it seems that the benefits of doing so may outweigh the disadvantage of having some less tasty foods on the grocery shelves. One thing is certain. While you may have to take MSG sensitivity into account, MSG allergy need not be a cause for concern.