Monosodium glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, a sodium salt of glutamic acid, is a popular food additive and flavor enhancer often associated with Chinese food, soups and processed meats. While it may add a nice flavor to your food, it turns out that isn’t the only thing it’s adding. It might also be responsible for causing you to gain weight.
A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, done by researchers at UNC Chapel Hill followed about 10,000 adults in China for almost 6 years examining how much MSG they consumed and how it affected their overall weight.
The study found that those people who consumed the most additional MSG, about 5 grams a day, were about 30% more likely to become overweight in that 6 year period than those who ate the least amount of MSG, around half a gram a day. At first we wondered if the weight gain was from something like eating more junk food, but it turns out they tried to control for different factors, and they still concluded that MSG was linked with weight gain.
This does not of course prove that additional MSG in your diet causes weight gain. Most people consume between 10-20 grams of glutamate in their diet each day, and the added glutamate from MSG is usually 1-1.5 grams a day. Most U.S. adults will not consume an additional 5 grams of MSG daily.
If you want to decrease your MSG consumption, as it is simply a flavoring for most people, ask to have your foods prepared without it. While you may lower your chance of weight gain, to be honest, we think that the total caloric intake is the number 1, 2 and 3 causal factors in weight gain, not MSG!