It’s MSG, every psychosomatic foodie’s nightmare. But is “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” just a myth fueled by irrational public hysteria? The article, “If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?” seems to confirm this:
We now know that glutamate is present in almost every food stuff, and that the protein is so vital to our functioning that our own bodies produce 40 grams of it a day. Probably the most significant discovery in explaining human interest in umami is that human milk contains large amounts of glutamate (at about 10 times the levels present in cow’s milk).
(The article also triggered a huge discussion over at MetaFilter.)
What I find curious is the people claiming allergies to MSG aren’t even eating authentic Asian cuisine, but rather mushu pork and other anachronistic foodcourt flavours. Personally, if I got sick eating somewhere, I’d look at the usual suspects first: excessive grease, allergies, or maybe the cook didn’t wash his hands.
You know what else has glutamate in it? Tomatoes, parmesan cheese, walnuts, and peas. MSG makes things taste great, but as always, everything in moderation.