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Will MSG Make Me Fat?

Ever leave a Chinese food restaurant and find yourself hungry only minutes after departing? A team of scientists working at the in the University of Madrid found that when given to rats, MSG produces a 40% increase in appetite. The scientists speculate that MSG affects the arcuate nucleus area of the brain and so prevents proper functioning of the body’s appetite control mechanisms. According to this hypothesis, consuming foods with large quantities of MSG causes one to feel hungrier.

Scientists at the University of Miami School of Medicine report, “that adding monosodium glutamate makes food taste better and makes you want to eat more.” No surprise there. In 1969, Dr. John W. Olney found his lab rats became grotesquely obese when fed MSG.

A Pringles slogan which declares “Once you POP you cant stop” underscores the addictive qualities found in the MSG laden crisps. While there may be a correlation between hunger and MSG, a survey of 4938 Japanese men found that self-reported dietary MSG consumption was not statistically linked with obesity, heart disease or stroke. Like anything else, moderation is critical.

MSG has been with us for less than one-hundred years, but the flavor which it distills, umami, found in foods which contain free glutamate, has been an integral part of cooking for centuries. Evidence points to MSG’s safety, its prominence in the food world points to its value.