Background: The frequency of reactions reported to occur after the consumption of monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the subject of controversy. Objective: We conducted a multicenter, multiphase, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with a crossover design to evaluate reactions reportedly caused by MSG. Methods: In 3 of 4 protocols (A, B, and C), MSG was administered without food. A positive response was scored if the subject reported 2 or more symptoms from a list of 10 symptoms reported to occur after ingestion of MSG-containing foods within 2 hours. In protocol A 130 self-selected reportedly MSG-reactive volunteers were challenged with 5 g of MSG and with placebo on separate days (days 1 and 2). Of the 86 subjects who reacted to MSG, placebo, or both in protocol A, 69 completed protocol B to determine whether the response was consistent and dose dependent. To further examine the consistency and reproducibility of reactions to MSG, 12 of the 19 subjects who responded to 5 g of MSG but not to placebo in both protocols A and B were given, in protocol C, 2 challenges, each consisting of 5 g of MSG versus placebo. Results: Of 130 subjects in protocol A, 50 (38.5%) responded to MSG only, 17 (13.1%) responded to placebo only (P < .05), and 19 (14.6%) responded to both. Challenge with increasing doses of MSG in protocol B was associated with increased response rates. Only half (n = 19) of 37 subjects who reacted to 5 g of MSG but not placebo in protocol A reacted similarly in protocol B, suggesting inconsistency in the response. Two of the 19 subjects responded in both challenges to MSG but not placebo in protocol C; however, their symptoms were not reproducible in protocols A through C. These 2 subjects were challenged in protocol D 3 times with placebo and 3 times with 5 g of MSG in the presence of food. Both responded to only one of the MSG challenges in protocol D. Conclusion: The results suggest that large doses of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in individuals who believe that they react adversely to MSG. However, neither persistent nor serious effects from MSG ingestion are observed, and the responses were not consistent on retesting.
- Monosodium glutamate
- Monosodium glutamate symptom complex
- Sensitivity to food additives
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy