In the largest study to-date looking at potential reactions to monosodium glutamate (MSG)--a flavor enhancer blamed for "Chinese restaurant syndrome"--researchers could find no consistent or serious problems associated with the additive.
MSG can be purchased at local grocery stores and is often used in Asian cooking. It has been said to cause general weakness, muscle tightness, headache and flushing, as well as to exacerbate asthma and cause heart palpitations.
In a new study conducted at University of California-Los Angeles, School of Medicine 130 people were recruited in Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles who said they had experienced a negative reaction after consuming an Asian meal believed to contain MSG. In the first step of the study, the participants were given a citrus beverage containing an inactive placebo on one day, and on another, a beverage containing 5 grams of MSG. The average daily intake of MSG in this country is less than one-tenth that amount. About 40% of the study participants reported a reaction to MSG, 13% reported a reaction to the placebo, and about 15% reported symptoms after consuming either one.
Those who responded underwent a second test with a citrus-containing beverage and at this point only 19 of the 37 study participants responded in the same way on the second test as the first. The researchers suspect that initial reactions might have been influenced by the taste of MSG, which may not have been masked by the beverage.
Only two individuals reacted to MSG and not the placebo in all the tests. However, when the researchers tested them again--this time with a capsule taken with cereal and milk
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