Thursday, March 2, 2017

David Gutierrez on the Dangers of MSG

Anyone who has gone grocery shopping knows that food packages are loaded with buzzwords. Gluten free, organic, MSG free, non-GMO. Lack of explanation and persistent marketing creates fears, and things like gluten, MSG, and GMO are cast in a negative light when most consumers would not be able to tell you why they are supposedly so terrible.

The fear can also be attributed to articles such as David Gutierrez’s “KFC menu found to be loaded with MSG “excitotoxins” that can damage neurology” from

In the article, he states that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is an “artificial salt” that is unlike the “naturally occurring glutamate…found in food such as anchovies, tomato paste…and parmesan cheese.” He mentions this to appeal to the general fear that anything that doesn’t naturally occur is harmful to the body. However, he fails to note that MSG is found naturally in tomatoes, cheese, and other foods.

Gutierrez reproves the use of MSG, saying that it “has been connected with various health problems” and lists symptoms such as headache, numbness or burning in the mouth, and shortness of breath. However, in a placebo-controlled experimental design by Tarasoff and Kelly, 71 participants were given 5g MSG and then a standard breakfast. Only participant reported a reaction to the MSG, a self-identified MSG-sensitive individual who was given the placebo.

Finally, Gutierrez’s article is purposefully fear mongering. He notes that in high doses, MSG can overstimulate neurons “literally to death.” He also says in the article that KFC chicken is “literally marinated in MSG.” Word choice is incredibly important and his almost implies that the chicken is smothered in MSG. First, the ideal concentration of MSG varies by food, with tests finding that over addition of the compound in food results in a decline in reported pleasure score. Secondly, the KFC lists 3 ingredients for the marinade: salt, sodium phosphate, and monosodium glutamate, in that order. In the FDA food labeling guide, it states that, “the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.” For all we and Gutierrez know, there could be minimal amounts of MSG. But without stating the amount that is required for a lethal dose or the amount in the KFC chicken, he claims in the title that the KFC menu is “loaded with MSG.”

That being said, this blog post is not to encourage you to consume more MSG, but just to clear up some misconceptions that you may have. Don’t fall for all the buzzwords that are slapped on packages! You could miss out on a tons of delicious GMO food with gluten and MSG.


Posted by: Haley Huang, Group A, Week 4


  1. I personally believe that anyone who has to use the word "literally" to strengthen an argument probably has a really awful argument to begin with. In this case, that's pretty true. Aside from the obvious intent of fear mongering, this is also one of many claims that is not backed up by any relevant, scientific data. What's even more interesting is that there is an actual, scientific, and relevant study that supports the opposite! It's incredible how easy it is for people to write entire false articles based on abstract claims and very weak, if any, data to support these claims.

    Posted by Peter Makhoul (3)

  2. Firstly, I chuckled at the part where you mentioned the "self-identified MSG-sensitive individual" above. It's really become a big issue with people self-diagnosing themselves with having an intolerance or allergy without actually getting any medical confirmation from a doctor. It almost becomes a fad to be intolerant or "free" of eating something. I understand completely wanting to eat a healthier and more natural diet, but I think it's ridiculous when people preach about how bad a chemical is without actually having any scientific proof. I also think the food industry plays a huge part in everyone's fear as well because they always advertise their foods as "MSG Free" or "GMO Free", which causes people to think there's something wrong with them in the first place.

    Posted by Jordan Milone (3)

  3. There's also some pretty harrowing sociological basis behind the MSG panic. Following the release of Carson's "Silent Spring”, concern over putting chemicals into the environment skyrocketed.
    Shortly after, health advocates turned their attention towards food additives, namely MSG, as its use as a flavor enhancer was seemingly ubiquitous in the 1960s.

    People started using this fear of MSG as an attempt to attack Chinese restaurants. Apparently, all it took was one letter written to the New England Journal of Medicine (1968) describing what is now known as "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" to open the floodgates. No study has every been able to give validity to this syndrome, in which "sufferers" claim a multitude of (likely psychomatic) symptoms (rooted in xenophobia). This phenomenon can be easily connected to the "Yellow Peril” - the historical fear of East Asians in the US. Using MSG as a vehicle for panic, white restaurant owners were able to label Chinese food as “junk food”, which in turn subjugated Chinese restaurant owners via ensuring that they stay poor. I’m not capable of fully detailing this era of US history in this little comment box, but it’s a very real thing that doesn’t get enough exposure.

    Here are some related articles that are filled with references to more concrete sources:

    Posted by Owen Mulledy (3)

    1. The articles you linked to were very interesting to read! I never knew/thought about the "Yellow Peril" being a factor of the MSG fear. I always thought it was just because of marketing that boasted of their products being free of say MSG or something else that made people think there was something bad about it.

      From what I read about MSG and the double blind placebo studies, I did see that there was definitely a sociological basis behind the MSG panic, but the points you made about the fear of chemicals following Silent Spring and "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" are some that I didn't think about before reading your comment.

      Thanks for sharing the articles!

      Posted by Haley Huang, Group A

  4. I love myself some MSG. Although its not the best choice of sodium to consume it was a great point made that natural foods such as tomatoes have MSG in them. Owen made a great point in his comment above about "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" and the misconceptions that MSG causes xenophobia. And truth be told all of the best foods contain MSG.

    Posted by Givenchy Humes (2)

  5. It is interesting that Gutierrez claims that MSG is an "artificial salt." It makes you wonder if he even knows that it does naturally occur in some foods, or if he is just conveniently leaving that part out of his article. There is so much misinformation and mislabeling of food products absolutely everywhere. Most of the time it's hard to tell what ingredients you are actually putting into your body. This article only makes this issue worse. Putting false information about nutrition out on the internet can cause confusion and maybe even poor diet choices. Gutierrez's general argument can be validated because yes, you should not consume a lot of MSG. However, that doesn't men that you should avoid all of the foods that have it because that would be quite difficult.

    Posted by Taylor Irwin

    1. I think the problem is that he isn't just making the general argument that you should not consume a lot of MSG. The way the article is written and the claim that MSG is an artificial salt does nothing except cause fear and uncertainty, especially to consumers without a background in science or prior knowledge of MSG, its uses, and natural occurrences. He talks about the negative reactions to the compound without citing any studies and the majority of the sources listed after the article are from, with one of them authored by him as well. His argument seems to be that MSG in general is evil and KFC is bad because they use it.

      I also think it's interesting that he doesn't state the specific amounts of MSG in the restaurant's chicken but claims that it is "loaded with MSG" and after saying that the compounds can overstimulate neurons "literally to death."

      Posted by Haley Huang, Group A

  6. I was diagnosed as HEPATITIS B carrier in 2013 with fibrosis of the
    liver already present. I started on antiviral medications which
    reduced the viral load initially. After a couple of years the virus
    became resistant. I started on HEPATITIS B Herbal treatment from
    ULTIMATE LIFE CLINIC ( in March, 2020. Their
    treatment totally reversed the virus. I did another blood test after
    the 6 months long treatment and tested negative to the virus. Amazing
    treatment! This treatment is a breakthrough for all HBV carriers.