A Review of the Alleged Health Hazards of Monosodium Glutamate

Anca Zanfirescu, Anca Ungurianu, Aristides M. Tsatsakis, George M. Nițulescu, Demetrios Kouretas, Aris Veskoukis, Dimitrios Tsoukalas, Ayse B. Engin, Michael Aschner, Denisa Margină

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is an umami substance widely used as flavor enhancer. Although it is generally recognized as being safe by food safety regulatory agencies, several studies have questioned its long-term safety. The purpose of this review was to survey the available literature on preclinical studies and clinical trials regarding the alleged adverse effects of MSG. Here, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the reported possible risks that may potentially arise following chronic exposure. Preclinical studies have associated MSG administration with cardiotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, neurotoxicity, low-grade inflammation, metabolic disarray, and premalignant alterations, along with behavioral changes. However, in reviewing the available literature, we detected several methodological flaws, which led us to conclude that these studies have limited relevance for extrapolation to dietary human intake of MSG risk exposure. Clinical trials have focused mainly on MSG effects on food intake and energy expenditure. Besides its well-known impact on food palatability, MSG enhances salivary secretion and interferes with carbohydrate metabolism, while the impact on satiety and post-meal recovery of hunger varied in relation to meal composition. Reports on MSG hypersensitivity or links of its use to increased pain sensitivity and atopic dermatitis were found to have little supporting evidence. Many of the reported negative health effects of MSG have little relevance for chronic human exposure and are poorly informative as they are based on excessive dosing that does not meet with levels normally consumed in food products. We conclude that further clinical and epidemiological studies are needed, with an appropriate design, accounting for both added and naturally occurring dietary MSG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalComprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • flavor enhancer
  • food palatability
  • monosodium glutamate
  • toxicity
  • umami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science


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