When FDA, on its website categorized MSG or monosodium glutamate, the controversial ingredient as ‘safe’, the nation, or we can say, the world went tizzy. Ajinomoto or Aji No Moto, fondly known as the ‘essence of taste’ in Japanese is an MSG occurring naturally in food such as tomato and cheeses. It’s mainly used as a flavor enhancer in Chinese and Japanese dishes, but came into radar when people reported nausea and headache after eating foods containing this ingredient. So is Ajinomoto or MSG actually safe for consumption? What are the benefits and side effects of Ajinomoto? What is Chinese Restaurant Syndrome? We’ll answer this and many more queries related to Ajinomoto in this article. So keep reading.
What Is Ajinomoto?
Ajinomoto isn’t an ingredient itself, but is actually the name of a Japanese firm, called Ajinomoto Corporation, which produces this food enhancer. The main component of Ajinomoto is MSG, which is found in several ready to eat or instant foods like soups, wafers, noodles and more.
Why Is Ajinomoto Harmful?
When we consume MSG or glutamic acid, the glutamate levels in our blood increases 8 to 10 times. Ideally, the levels of glutamate in our body should be low, lest it can cause serious side effects.
Side Effects Of Ajinomoto:
Renowned and reverted, Dr. Mercola says that MSG or Ajinomoto is a silent killer. It’s probably worse than nicotine, alcohol, and drugs and is most likely lying around in your kitchen cabinet and your child’s school canteen or cafeteria. Below we’ll discuss the side effects of Ajinomoto or Chinese Restaurant Syndrome and how it harms the body.
- Over Stimulates The Neurotransmitter:
Ajinomoto is neurodegenerative in the sense that it stimulates the nerve cells and changes the balance of the neurotransmitter. This can cause tingling or burning sensations in the neck and face and even numbness of the body. A regular consumption of MSG can also lead to health disorders like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and multiple sclerosis.
Yes, Ajinomoto can indeed lead to obesity. Wondering how? We’ll tell you! Ajinomoto stimulates pancreases, and forces the body to release insulin even if your sugar levels are normal. This drop in sugar levels makes you feel hungry, which ultimately leads to overeating. It even causes leptin resistance, the hormone which signals the brain to stop eating. This makes people overeat, eventually leading to obesity.
However, Ka He, the nutrition expert of the University of North Carolina opined that the weight gain by MSG was modest, but its implications for public health are relatively substantial. Therefore, some more research is required to find the link between MSG and weight gain.
MSG contains over 1/3 of the sodium found in the table salt. So by consuming Ajinomoto on a regular basis, you’re even increasing the levels of sodium in the body, which can lead to complications like swelling in the legs, water retention and an increase in the blood pressure. Women, especially, experience a sudden spike in their blood pressure when they consumed MSG. It even increases blood pressure in people who’re on antihypertensive medications.
Studies have proven that excess consumption of MSG of Ajinomoto can lead to infertility.
Since MSG is a neurotransmitter, it stimulates neurons or brain cells, keeping you awake at night and triggering insomnia. With insomnia or sleep apnea comes a host of problems like puffy eyes and face, snoring, obesity, fatigue and even sleep related breathing disorders.
- Headache And Migraine:
Headache is probably one of the most common side effects of Ajinomoto. Initially, the headache is mild, but with continued usage, it can take the form of a migraine. Migraine pain is so intense that it can be debilitating at times. It even comes with a host of other symptoms like nausea, sensitivity to sound and light and vision changes.
- Ajinomoto Can Lead To Asthma:
A 1995 report by FASEB concluded that MSG or Ajinomoto could cause asthma in people who are sensitive to food additives. The report was further backed by two previous studies, which involved people who have asthma.
However, there have been several debates on this study, with many FASEB writers noting the discrepancy in the research. Even the Clinical and Experimental Allergy dismissed the relation between MSG and asthma, and some more researching is required to identify the connection between asthma and MSG.
- Affects The Heart:
This is another serious side effect of Ajinomoto. An excess consumption of Ajinomoto can lead to chest pain, irregular heartbeats or palpitation, and cardiac muscle arrest.
Now, this is one serious potential side effect of MSG or Ajinomoto. Dr. Russel Blaylock, the author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills” claims that excess Ajinomoto ingestion can enhance the development of cancer. He even demanded some well-investigated studies into his claim.
However, the American Institute for Cancer Research opines that there is no substantial evidence that MSG or Ajinomoto can trigger cancer.
- Increases The Risk Of Metabolic Syndrome:
A study published in Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that MSG could increase the possibility of developing metabolic syndrome, which is basically a group of health conditions occurring together, increasing the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart diseases. The health conditions include high blood sugar, high blood pressure, increased triglyceride levels, abnormal cholesterol and fat around the waist
Effects Of Ajinomoto Or MSG On Pregnancy:
- It’s highly discouraged to consume Ajinomoto or MSG in any form during pregnancy. MSG breaks down the placental barrier of food supply to the baby in pregnant women. This malfunctioning implies that the unborn child will be protected from all the substances, both good and bad, and in the equal ratio. This will weaken the immune system of the baby, making him unable to fight the allergens and other germs that trigger illness.
- Since it’s a high sodium ingredient, MSG or Ajinomoto can lead to high blood pressure and water retention during pregnancy.
- Furthermore, Ajinomoto can even affect the brain neurons in unborn babies.
- That’s not all! Ajinomoto is known to cause excessive sweating in pregnant women. Some expectant mothers even experience weakness and nausea after eating it. Besides, Ajinomoto can trigger diseases like diabetes, asthma, food allergies, obesity and thyroid in pregnant women. So if you’re expecting a baby, please steer clear of Ajinomoto.
Benefits Of Ajinomoto:
Now you must be questioning yourself, “Is there really any benefit of Ajinomoto?” Well, yes, they are, and we believe you should be aware of them. Below listed are benefits of Ajinomoto.
- Ajinomoto Is Derived From Natural Resources:
Ajinomoto isn’t created from anything artificial, but is obtained from natural sources like foods rich in glutamate, which include mushrooms, tomato, oyster, sea kelp and Parmesan cheese. MSG obtained from natural sources are presumed to be relatively safe for consumption as it’s not a preservative.
- Gives A Unique Taste:
MSG or Ajinomoto gives a unique taste to the food, which is beyond sour, sweet, spicy, bitter and salty. This is precisely what we call the umami taste. Just a pinch of this ingredient can elevate your Chinese dishes to greater heights. In fact, Italian, European, America, almost every international cuisine incorporates MSG in their recipes. When added to canned veggies and meat, it gives a distinct and delicious flavor, which induces the appetite for the next bite.
- Reduces Salt Intake In Your Diet:
By consuming Ajinomoto, you’re in a way reducing your overall sodium intake. Ajinomoto contains 12 percent sodium, while table salt contains 40 percent. So there’s a difference of a whopping 30% in both Ajinomoto and table sodium. Hence, by consuming Ajinomoto, you can reduce your body’s overall sodium intake by 20 to 30%, while maintaining the palatability of the food.
- Promotes Nutrient Intake In The Elderly:
As we start growing older, our taste buds become a lot less sensitive, leading to lack of appetite. This unwillingness to eat can lead to malnutrition in the elderly. But just a pinch of Ajinomoto in the elderly’s food will enhance the taste and induce their appetite. This, in turn, will increase their food intake and will provide them the daily recommended amount of all the necessary nutrients.
- A Little Goes A Long Way:
Ajinomoto is described as a self-limiting seasoning. You do not need to add too much of this ingredient to achieve the rich flavor. Just a pinch of its can give you the much-desired umami taste. You must also keep in mind that excess usage won’t just cause wastage, but will even decline the taste and palatability of this dish.
- Promotes Protein Digestion:
It’s said that Ajinomoto or MSG can improve the quality of life by aiding digestion, ingestion, and metabolism of protein, a nutrient essential for the body. This is primarily possible due to the umami receptors found in the stomach (1).
Foods That Contain Ajinomoto Or MSG:
The following foods are most like to contain Ajinomoto or MSG:
- All kinds of sausages
- Dehydrated soup packets
- Soya sauce
- All canned and preserved foods
- All Chinese food
- Potato wafers
- Ready to eat food packets
- Tomato ketchup
- Preserved fish
- Instant noodles and cup noodles.
After weighing both pros and cons of Ajinomoto, it can be safe to conclude that the side effects of Ajinomoto far surpass its benefits. Hence, it would be advisable to avoid, or least reduce your Ajinomoto intake.
Please note, the side effects of Ajinomoto vary from person to person. If you haven’t experienced these side effects of Ajinomoto, there’s a good chance that you won’t ever experience them. But safety is always better than prevention. And even researchers have concluded that MSG is not a recommended food ingredient, it’s best to avoid it.
What do you think about Ajinomoto? Do you think it does more harm than good? Have you experienced any side effect of Ajinomoto? We’d love to know more about it from you.