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Is MSG Safe for Pregnant Women? Here's the Surprising Truth!

 

Pregnancy comes with very intense cravings. There will be days where you will crave bananas and peanut butter, while other days you may be craving chips, instant noodles, and sausages. We get it, pregnancy puts your body through a lot. However, when you are pregnant, the health of yourself and your baby depends on what you eat. Therefore, it's always important to know what’s in your food 

That's why we are here to talk about MSG!

What is MSG? 

MSG, also known as Monosodium glutamate is an additive used to enhance the savory flavour of foods. It is made by the fermentation of starch, sugarbeets, sugar cane, or molasses. It is known to provide the “umami” flavour, which is described as the fifth taste, savory. 

MSG  has been getting bad press for decades. It is a very controversial topic, you either hate it or love it. This is because many people believe that it can lead to various health problems. Pregnant women specifically have been told to stay away from MSG. But is there any scientific evidence that can prove any of these claims? 

Let’s dive into the real truths about MSG and set the record straight!

 

 

1. MSG is generally considered "safe" 

After years and years of extensive research, the Food and Drug Administration has categorized that MSG is generally recognized as safe for consumption, even for pregnant women. To this date, there has been no scientific evidence that msg causes adverse effects when consumed in food. However, there have not been enough studies regarding the effect on pregnant women. Therefore, the best way to deal with this is to minimize MSG as much as possible. 

2. MSG contains ⅓ of sodium found in salt 

Many people believe that MSG is high in sodium and is the reason for its adverse health outcomes. However, MSG is sometimes used to reduce salt intake, without losing flavor. This is due to its ability to enhance flavors by activating taste receptors on the tongue. Unfortunately, because of its intense delicious flavor, it usually causes people to overeat, leading to weight gain and increased sodium intake. It is especially important to reduce sodium in your diet when pregnant as it may lead to water retention and high blood pressure. 

3. Studies show that MSG does not cause allergic reactions 

There have been several claims that MSG has triggered an allergic reaction. However, studies have not been able to find a relationship between the two. It is true that several studies have linked MSG to adverse health outcomes such as heart palpitation, drowsiness, and nausea.  However, most of these studies were individuals consuming 3 grams of MSG per day without food. This is very unlikely to be the reality even with crazy pregnancy cravings, as a typical serving is usually less than 0.5 grams. Despite this, some people can be sensitive to MSG. If you noticed some symptoms prior to pregnancy, then it’s best to completely avoid them while pregnant. 


4. MSG has been associated with increased migraines 

Headaches during pregnancy are no fun. Although the underlying cause of it has not been identified, switching to a healthier diet has been said to help.  One of the most frequently reported side effects of MSG is headache or migraine. Some studies were able to prove this, while others could not. More research is definitely needed to confirm the link between the two. 


Where can you find MSG?

The FDA has made it mandatory to list out MSG in the ingredient list. Some of its alternating names include:

  • E621
  • Monosodium salt 
  • Sodium glutamate 
  • Monosodium glutamate monohydrate 

MSG is usually added to processed food to enhance its flavour such as: 

  • Broths
  • Frozen meals 
  • Canned food 
  • Chips 
  • Fast food 
  • Sauces/dressings 
  • Seasoning blends 

The Takeaway

Even Though the FDA has categorized MSG as Safe, there have not been enough studies done on pregnant women. If you have had reactions to MSG prior to pregnancy, it is best to completely avoid it, otherwise, minimize it as much as possible. Some foods that contain MSG are also very high in salts such as chips and canned food. Do remember to keep your sodium intake in check and not exceed 2,300 mg per day. 

The best way to minimize sodium intake is to add natural herbs and spices. Not only do spices flavor your food beautifully, but they also contain numerous health benefits. You may also consider using other low sodium seasoning made with natural ingredients such as Love Earth’s Natural Mushroom Seasoning and Aloe Vera Seasoning. They’re made with 100% natural ingredients, contain No Calories, No MSG, and most importantly they’re less than 140 mg of sodium per serving! 

References:

US Food & Drug Administration. (2012). Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/questions-and-answers-monosodium-glutamate-msg 

Garone. (2021). Is It Safe for You to Eat Foods Containing MSG While Pregnant?. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/msg-pregnancy#what-is-msg 

Maluly, H. D., Arisseto‐Bragotto, A. P., & Reyes, F. G. (2017). Monosodium glutamate as a tool to reduce sodium in foodstuffs: Technological and safety aspects. Food science & nutrition, 5(6), 1039-1048. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29188030/

Obayashi, Y., & Nagamura, Y. (2016). Does monosodium glutamate really cause headache?: a systematic review of human studies. The journal of headache and pain, 17(1), 1-7. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27189588/

 

Eman Elzayyadi 
BSc (Hons) Nutrition with Wellness
UCSI University

Reviewed by: Jasmine Lim
Love Earth Organic Nutritionist
Bachelor of Science Degree in
Dietetics (major) & Food Science (minor)
Iowa State University, USA