Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jan 18, 2011 02:16 PM

Can you taste MSG in the food you are eating?

I can't.

For me, whenever I feel undeserved amount of thirst after the meal is when I think the possibility of having had food with MSG. Some people have described various unspecific symptoms such as headaches to numbness.

Can anyone describe the taste? Supertasters?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I can't taste it, but I know when it's there; I get a weird feeling on my tongue, kind of a tingling. Doesn't bother me, though.

    1. I can definitely recognize umami. Not sure that I can specifically tell when it is from msg as opposed to other sources, though.

      I don't experience any adverse effects from msg, as far as I know -- other than, maybe, eating more than I should and blowing my calorie count to hell.

      2 Replies
        1. re: racer x

          As I was reading this post I noticed that in the right hand column there is a STORY "You're Not Allergic to MSG and 6 More Culinary Secrets." Interesting.

        2. >>"Some people have described various unspecific symptoms such as headaches to numbness."<<

          The interesting thing is that there are millions of people in the US who claim to be sensitive to MSG. But when they participate in double-blind tests, they have unspecific symptoms such as headaches to numbness in response to sugar pills at about the same rate as to MSG. The science has a long way to go, but IMO the weight of the research indicates that MSG reactions are entirely psychosomatic.

          Used in moderation, I belive MSG is undetectable. But you can definitely tell when a place is overusing it. The food has tremendous depth of flavor (umami) without much actual flavor. Like chicken bullion compared to good chicken broth. Not a good sign...

          12 Replies
          1. re: alanbarnes

            This is almost certainly true, except for some very rare reactions.

            1. re: Steve

              I'm not saying that those "very rare reactions" don't exist. But it would be nice to see some decent studies to show that they do.

              1. re: alanbarnes

                There was a VERY long thread here on Chowhound which mostly came to the conclusion that the MSG scare is malarky, but there was one article cited that explained the rare side effect that can occur. I don't remember which thread or article, but IIRC there was a link provided.

                1. re: Steve

                  The Food Examiner just ran a three part series on MSG which cited many scientific studies that said there was no adverse reactions despite scare tactics by some columnists. And it was pointed out that many common foods (broccoli !) contain MSG!

              2. re: Steve

                The problem is (disclaimer, I'm making these numbers up), if 99.9% of people don't really have a reaction, 99.9% of people who feel they have reactions will claim they're part of the 0.01% who really do.

                1. re: jgg13

                  IIRC, the rare side effect is not a headache or anything niggling, but a severe reaction.

              3. re: alanbarnes

                if you collapse at table, you eat too much MSG. Saw a waiter eat a tablespoon straight once. passed out straight up.

                "sensitivity" is... ahem... mostly bullshit. if you're also allergic to mushrooms, OTOH, you might look into it...

                1. re: Chowrin

                  I'm sorry but I'm calling BS on the waiter story. There's no reason MSG would cause someone to lose consciousness in that fashion.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      read the wikipedia article. properties are well documented.

                      1. re: Chowrin

                        Wikipedia? Seriously?

                        Okay, I'll play. Wikipedia says that "while large doses of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in individuals who believe that they react adversely to MSG, the frequency of the responses was low and the responses reported were inconsistent, not reproducible, and not observed when MSG was given with food."

                        The magic words here are "not reproducible." That's kind of the opposite of "well documented."

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          not saying "chinese restaurant syndrome" is well documented. its a piece of crap.

                          vasodilatory properties of glutamate are well documented, as is the ability of it to cause brain damage if consumed REALLY rapidly (it absorbs quickly) and in copious quantities (judging by rat testing). Of the two, I'd say the vasodilatory properties are much more likely to have cause the reaction. [as a sidenote, glutamate has also been implicated in seizures]

                          I am not a physician, and I'm sure one could probably give a better answer. I can read, however, and am incessantly curious. glad you're the same way!

              4. Pho is *loaded* with MSG. After I add the thai basil, raw bean sprouts, sriracha, hoisin sauce, and a squeeze of lemon or lime, I have no clue what the MSG tastes like. Mission accomplished I suppose. If you're ever in a Thai restaurant, have them bring some over for you to taste so you can possibly identify it in other dishes or cuisines.

                Pho -->

                1 Reply
                1. re: Cheese Boy

                  I made pho for the first time recently. NO MSG.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    It's not called "flavor". The sexy loan word for MSG, "umami", used in English, referring to "the 5th taste", is a "mouthfeel", not a "flavoring" or an actual "taste". In native Japanese, it means both "the 5th taste" like "mouthfeel" as well as just meaning "good taste" as a general description.

                    It's easiest to pick up umami (MSG) in soups, stews, and saucey things. But I have (in-law) relatives in Japan who sprinkle it on everything. MSG has nearly a completely nuetral flavor. Personally, I don't have any after effects like thirst or worse from eating MSG, but it can be very pronounced in very poorly prepared dishes when it is used as an additive. I had a black bean soup at a restaurant last week that I could tell with doused liberally with Ajinomoto or another MSG brand.

                    1. re: Silverjay


                      It was my poor attempt at sarcasm, or humor, or maybe both.