Monday, March 30, 2009

The MSG scare

I am pissed.

The blogger at the boy who knew too much claims that, in his own words, that he has a heightened sensitivity to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and that many westerners experience the 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' when eating MSG-laden food. In particular, based on absolutely no rigorous medical research, he believes that Chinese people have some special ability to clear MSG from their system due to genetic adaptation whereas westerners don't.

This is of course bunkum because:

1. Glutamates occur naturally in food, especially fermented/aged ones like soy sauce, fish sauce, ripe tomatoes, meat, and Parmesan cheese. The Italians get on fine with tomatoes and cheese.
2. Our bodies make glutamate on its own and breast milk is especially high in glutamate to entice babies to suckle.
3. MSG was only chemically isolated in the 20th century. Hence, its use as a food additive started only in the 20th century. Pray tell, how did Chinese people adapt to something they have only started adding to their food barely a century ago?
4. Marmite, frequently cited as the most-missed foodstuff by British expatriates (of whom the blogger is one), is a yeast-extract that contains very high concentrations of glutamates, much more than soy sauce. They use it on their toasts and in their soups. Mysteriously, you never hear about the Brits feeling dizzy or getting headaches from their beloved Marmites. Ditto for Vegemite, the perennial Australian favourite.
5. Glutamates are used extensively in flavouring chips, crisps, fast food, canned soups, etc, all of which are consumed in copious amounts in the UK. Apparently, one never hears of the Brits suffering from an epidemic of the so-called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.

Moral of the day: Don't make baseless claims about something you know squat about, even if you have many gifts (or so you claim). Ching Chong also has access to the internet.