Dr Zac Turner on why MSG in Asian food isn’t bad in moderation

Ask Doctor Zac is a weekly column on news.com.au. Dr Zac Turner dispels the myths surrounding MSG and Asian food this week.

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.

MSG is a common ingredient in Australian cuisines. This has been a topic that has been discussed a lot in the comments. People are commenting that it gives you headaches, and that it’s so unhealthy for you. I thought we had ended the anti-MSG conspiracy a few years ago.

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

Annie 23, Sydney

Answer: It’s a great question. It frustrates me that some people only target Asian food for MSG, even though almost every other food has it. It’s even found naturally in some foods.

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

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MSG got a bad rep when an American doctor wrote to the medical journal in 1960s claiming that he was sick from eating Chinese food.

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

What is MSG? Monosodium Glutamate is a flavor enhancer made from seaweed and used in many take-out restaurants. We all know that salt and pepper are essential ingredients in cooking. MSG is another flavor enhancer that you can 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 can be safely consumed in moderate amounts. As I tell my patients to reduce their salt intake, I recommend that they also limit their MSG intake.

Got a question:

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Dr Zac Turner graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Medicine, and a Bachelor of surgery. He is both a physician and co-owner for telehealth. Concierge Doctors. He was also a registered nursing nurse, and is also a qualified biomedical scientist and PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering.

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