Dr Zac Turner on why MSG in Asian food isn't bad in moderation | news.com.au

Welcome to Ask Doctor Zac, a weekly column from news.com.au. This week, Dr Zac Turner busts the myth about MSG and Asian food.

Question: Hi Dr Zac, I’m a second generation immigrant and have been blessed to see my parents turn their Chinese restaurant into a thriving business. I’ve especially loved working behind in the kitchen, and recently have begun filming TikToks of all the popular dishes being cooked.

Something that has popped up so much in the comments of my videos has been Aussies getting angry that we use MSG in our dishes. People are commenting that it gives you headaches, and that it’s so unhealthy for you. I thought we dropped the anti-MSG conspiracy a decade ago?

Can you finally put a stop to these stereotypes, and tell Australia why MSG isn’t so bad? –

Annie 23, Sydney

Answer: A great question, thank you for asking it. I find it so frustrating when people specifically target Asian food for containing MSG when nearly everything else has it. It’s even found naturally in some foods.

Tomato Sauce? MSG! Vegemite? MSG! Chicken Salt? You better believe it has MSG! You don’t hear Aussies complaining they have headaches after a servo pie or fresh bag of hot chips.

MSG received a bad rap when an American doctor in the 1960s wrote to a medical journal claiming he got sick after consuming Chinese food.

You may sometimes hear people say, “Oh I always get a headache after Chinese takeaway because of the MSG.” Other common “symptoms” are flushing, sweating, nausea and tingling in the face, neck and chest. This is actually a condition called MSG symptom complex – and studies have shown it’s all a placebo brought on by a misunderstanding. And they say ignorance is bliss!

Now what is MSG? Monosodium glutamate is a flavour enhancer made from seaweed, commonly used in takeaway restaurants. When we cook we use salt and pepper, right? Well MSG is just another flavour enhancer to use.

It’s derived from L-glutamic acid, which is naturally present in many foods. L-glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that your body can produce it by itself and doesn’t need to get it from food.

MSG is safe to be consumed in moderate amounts. Just like how I will tell my patients to limit their salt intake, I will recommend they moderate their MSG intake as well.

Got a question:


Dr Zac Turner has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Sydney. He is both a medical practitioner and a co-owner of telehealth service, Concierge Doctors. He was also a registered nurse and is also a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist along with being a PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering


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