What is Ajinomoto? Why is it considered harmful?

Noodle soup tastes so delicious, unlike any other soup we make ourselves. Wonder why packet ramen and noodle soups taste like that? It is because of Ajinomoto, amongst other added flavors. Ajinomoto, also known as monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a salt of an amino acid that gives a meaty flavor to foods. However, the flavorful ingredient is associated with several controversies about having a negative impact on our health. For example, people with hypertension are recommended to cut their intake of ajinomoto in order to regulate and keep their blood pressure in the normal range. Let’s look at how aginomoto and MSG impacts our overall wellbeing.

MSG is Used to Add Flavor to Foods

MSG naturally occurs in many foods like cheese and tomatoes, now you know why cheese tastes so great. Aji No Moto- Essence of Taste in Japanese became a popular word around the world when people realized how it can revolutionize the taste of a meal. The use of Ajinomoto increased rapidly because it gave Chinese food that ‘chinese’ flavor. Add a dash of this salt to your food and be ready to receive praise on your cooking skills. The main element present in sodium glutamate is glutamic acid called glutamate. It is derived from sugarcane and fermented just like soy sauce.

Reported Effects of Ajinomoto in Humans

Soon, news started spreading that ajinomoto was putting the health of people at risk. Here are the common problems that were reported to health authorities after consuming MSG:

  • Sweating is a common problem that occurs after consuming MSG. More sodium salt can also cause brain damage
  • Ajinomoto causes sleepiness and laziness
  • A burning sensation in stomach is reported
  • It leads to other joint and muscle issues as it reduces bone strength
  • It causes fluctuation in blood sugar levels as any high sodium diet can do, causing arrhythmia
  • It can serve as a neurotransmitter in the brain, causing adverse side effects such as being unable to comprehend when to stop food intake

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received numerous complaints from people regarding the effects of MSG. Apart from the common problems mentioned above, these MSGs symptom complex reactions include:

  • Headaches
  • Flushes
  • Facial tightness
  • Numbness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain

Mayo Clinic reports that researchers found no relation between MSG and these conditions. In fact, MSG is naturally present in both vegetable and meat types. Researchers found short-term effects on a limited population, but no long-term effects were found after consuming MSG. FDA also put it on their site that MSG is generally safe to consume. FDA standards are accepted all over the world.

Effects of Glutamate

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and its high levels are bad for brain health. However, nature has built our bodies to regulate themselves. Glutamate cannot pass the blood brain barrier so its excess in the blood is not an issue for your health. In simple words, our brain will not let glutamate enter the bloodstream unchecked. Chinese have been eating MSG for hundreds of years and they seem to be doing fine. Asian countries also have a lesser obesity rate compared to America and other western countries.


MSG or ajinomoto itself is not bad for your body. What you need to take care of is the quantity you consume. Any type of salt consumed in large quantities is bad for health, especially for the heart. Same is the case with too much sugar. The name monosodium means that for every molecule of glutamate there is a molecule of sodium, a cat-ion. They dissociate in the body and you get sodium from it. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid having too much of any sodium. The right and harmless amount of ajinomoto you can add to your food is one pinch. Since one pinch is enough to bring out the flavor, your health should be fine after eating foods with MSG. People with heart issues should be even more careful and avoid large quantities of sodium-rich foods (hold off on that Chinese takeaway for a bit).