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Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been a controversial topic for discussion over decades.

Many people claim they have bad reactions when they eat food seasoned with MSG. Since the 1960s there have been hundreds of studies conducted to investigate these claims. Results have been widely unanimous. Most experts today agree that MSG poses no specific health threat to humans and sensitivity to the additive is rare.

MSG is a type of naturally occurring salt called glutamate. It comes in a crystallised form that looks similar to refined white sugar. Glutamate enhances savoury flavours in a range of common foods and sauces.

If you are concerned about how MSG might affect you during your pregnancy, make sure to listen to your body and read up on the facts. These are the best ways to decipher whether you should avoid MSG while pregnant.

The problem with MSG during pregnancy

Although there is no evidence to support the claim that, in the general population, MSG causes sickness, some people can have a sensitivity to it. This includes pregnant women.

When MSG-intolerant people consume MSG, they may become sick. Some of the common symptoms that intolerant people experience include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • A racing pulse
  • Unquenchable thirst
  • Vivid nightmares

Chances are though, if MSG hasn’t affected you before falling pregnant, there won’t be a risk to you or your baby during pregnancy.

Your safest option

The Food Standards Authority of Australia and New Zealand states that MSG is safe for humans to consume at the standard levels found in foods. It isn’t a banned substance anywhere in the world.

Simply put, if MSG doesn't bother you when you're not pregnant, there isn’t a specific need for you to avoid it now. If you experience issues eating foods which contain MSG, avoid eating them. Consult your chosen healthcare professional about any particular dietary concerns you have.

When buying takeaway food, ask if MSG is included.

Common foods containing MSG

MSG is an additive used in many everyday foods.

You should always read the labels of any packaged food you buy. Some foods will label MSG as an ingredient and others may label it as “Preservative 621”.

There are also a number of other confusing ingredients found in common foods that either contain MSG or are chemically indistinguishable to it. These include:

  • Hydrolysed soy protein
  • Vegetable, corn, yeast or protein extracts
  • Autolysed yeast

Be careful of products that use a ‘No Added MSG” label. Some might include the ingredients listed above so it’s important to know what to look for, especially if you are MSG intolerant.

In particular, the below products often contain some level of MSG:

  • Flavoured instant noodle meals
  • Packets and cans of soup
  • Flavoured rice crackers
  • Flavoured packets of potato and corn chips
  • Some cheese spreads
  • Oyster sauce
  • Soy sauce

Other forms of glutamate also occur naturally in many fresh foods, including meat, fish, dairy products and, fruits and vegetables. Consumed in this form, glutamate will very rarely pose any health risks.

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