MSG - Its Usages & Side Effects

MSG is not just in maggi or chinese cuisine, but in lot of other products too. Read to know more.
By : Purple Kaddu Posted on :

Why is maggi so addictive? What’s the secret in Ching’s secret? Why is it so tasty? It’s like a never ending mystery. Why not try and decode the magic masala. To begin with, the only reference we have is the ingredients. So, let's scrutinize them.

A close look at the ingredients of the masala tastemaker will mention spices and condiments (Nothing great, you too use them routinely). But, there are more ingredients added, which are difficult to understand and are coded (3 digit numbers). It’s these ingredients that perform the magic of flavour.

Flavour is enhanced by adding MSG i.e. Mono Sodium Glutamate ( remember the Ajinomoto you add in chinese cuisine? ). MSG (a white crystalline powder) itself has no taste, but it makes the food taste better. The glutamate in it tricks the tongue into tasting ‘umami’ - a meaty or savory taste ( that’s what keeps you licking your maggi plate!)

Will MSG be mentioned in the ingredients? Yes, but in a numeric form. Check for 3 digit code - ‘621’ on the ingredient list. E621 is the code indicating MSG.

But, what about the other ‘alien’ ingredients. ie . hydrolyzed vegetable protein ( HVP), autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts,protein isolate. These are duplicate names for MSG. These are present in almost all noodles and soups, flavoured chips and popcorn too. Popular brands like maggi, top ramen, knorr, ACT II, Bingo and Sunfeast too contain this form of MSG.

MSG is found in natural foods too such as tomatoes  and cheese. Thus products such as tomato flavoured soups and oats, ketchup, tomato powder, cheese powder too contain MSG. 

The mystery is thus solved - it's MSG which makes the food lip-smacking! 

How healthy is this lip-smacking taste ? 

In our body, MSG ( Mono Sodium Glutamate ) breaksdown to sodium and glutamate. 

Glutamate plays an important role in normal brain function. Excess glutamate ( through processed foods ) can overly excite the brain cells causing nervous system damage.

MSG also causes you to eat more and burn less, you may thus gain weight.

Many people experience a burning sensation, facial pressure, headache, nausea and chest pains post MSG consumption. These people are said to be allergic to MSG and must stay extra cautious ( read labels with naked eye)

MSG should also be avoided during Pregnancy, Lactation and by infants.

MSG, thus seems to deserve a place in your 'to avoid' list. Stay away from products containing added but hidden MSG ie. the 3 digit code - 621 ( by heart it ) and alien terms - ie . hydrolyzed vegetable protein ( HVP), autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts,protein isolate. MSG comes hidden in these terms and is indeed a 'chhupa rustam' . Scan your products for these codes and terms.

There are certain additives which act as 'flavour enhancers'. They are often used in products which contain MSG. Flavour enhancers act to create the 'umami' taste. 

What's the code for that?  Just check for the term 'flavour enhancers' in the ingredient list (coded as E635, E627 and E631). Products such as ching’sCornitosBingo, Pringles contain flavour enhancers. Are they too harmful? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not stressed on them, but they are known to cause rashes. Thus, it's always better to take precaution and avoid products with enhanced flavours.

But, lets face it. These flavours are irresistible. You are addicted to them and crave for them. You are emotionally connected to them too (for most of us, our first independent cooking experience was maggi noodles, you and your friend always fought for the last chip) So, should you totally avoid MSG containing products? The trick here is to indulge, but in limit. Controlling the amounts you eat eg. at a given time, you eat half a maggi block. Doing so, you satisfy your cravings. But, this should not be made a habit. Indulging too needs to be in moderation! ( you cannot combine small servings of many MSG containing products - that's cheating ) 

Can you calculate or measure MSG intake? Sadly, one cannot do so. It is not mandatory for food industries to mention the amount of MSG used. There is no upper limit of intake available too. Thus, one must self-monitor MSG consumption. 

Infact, instead of focusing on MSG only, one must look at the bigger picture ie. following a healthy lifestyle and minimising consumption of packaged or processed foods. If at all you need to buy them, read the labels, compare the brands and understand the amounts to be eaten, or visit This portal has the homework done for you. 

maggi masala, Mono Sodium Glutamate, MSG, Ajinomoto, flavour enhancer