Monosodium glutamate (Ajinomoto): what it is, effects and how to use

Ajinomoto, also known as monosodium glutamate, is a food additive composed of glutamate, an amino acid, and sodium, used in the industry to improve the taste of foods, giving a different touch and making foods more tasty. This additive is widely used in meats, soups, fish and sauces, being an ingredient widely used in the preparation of Asian food.

The FDA describes this additive as “safe”, since recent studies have not been able to prove whether this ingredient can cause negative health effects, however it can be related to weight gain and the appearance of symptoms such as headache, sweating, fatigue and nausea, representing the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.

Como o ajinomoto age

This additive works by stimulating saliva and is believed to enhance the taste of food by acting on some specific glutamate receptors on the tongue.

It is important to mention that although monosodium glutamate is found in large quantities in many protein foods, it only improves the salty taste, called umami, when it is free, not when it is associated with other amino acids.

Foods high in sodium glutamate

The following table indicates the foods containing sodium glutamate:

FoodAmount (mg / 100 g)
Cow milk2
Human milk22

Possible side effects

Various side effects to monosodium glutamate are described, however studies are very limited and most have been carried out on animals, which means that the result may not be the same for people. Despite this, it is believed that its consumption could:

  • Stimulating the consumption of food , since it is able to enhance the taste, which can cause the person to eat in larger quantities, however some studies have not found changes in caloric intake;
  • Favor weight gain , as it stimulates food consumption and results in satiety control. The results of the studies are controversial and, therefore, there is not enough evidence to support the influence of monosodium glutamate on weight gain;
  • Headache and migraine , on this situation some studies have shown that ingestion that amounts less than or equal to 3.5 g of monosodium glutamate, including the amount found in food, does not induce headache. On the other hand, studies have evaluated the intake of this additive at a dose greater than or equal to 2.5 g, showing the occurrence of headache in the people considered for the study;
  • It could generate hives, rhinitis and asthma , however the studies are very limited, requiring more scientific studies to prove this relationship;
  • Increase in blood pressure , since it is rich in sodium, with an increase in blood pressure especially in people who have hypertension;
  • It could result in Chinese Restaurant Syndrome , which is a disease that can arise in people who have sensitivity to monosodium glutamate, being characterized by symptoms such as nausea, sweating, hives, fatigue and headache. However, it is still not possible to prove the relationship between this additive and the appearance of symptoms due to the lack of scientific evidence.

All studies carried out related to the effects of ajinomoto on health are limited. Most of the effects appeared in studies in which extremely high doses of monosodium glutamate were used, which is not possible to achieve through a normal and balanced diet. Thus, it is recommended that the consumption of ajinomoto happen in a moderate way.

Possible benefits

The use of ajinomoto can have some indirect health benefits, as it can help reduce salt intake, as it maintains the flavor of food and contains 61% less sodium than common salt.

In addition, it can also be used by the elderly, because at that age the taste buds and smell are no longer the same, in addition, some people may experience a decrease in saliva, making chewing, swallowing and appetite difficult.

How to consume

To be used safely, ajinomoto must be added in small quantities to recipes at home, it is important to avoid its consumption together with the excessive use of salt, as this will make the food rich in sodium, a mineral that increases the blood pressure.

In addition, it is necessary to avoid frequent consumption of processed foods rich in this seasoning, such as diced seasoning, canned soups, cookies, processed meats, ready-made salads and frozen meals. On the labels of industrialized products, monosodium glutamate can appear with names such as sodium monoglutamate, yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein or E621.

Thus, with this care it is possible to be sure that the limit amount of monosodium glutamate for health will not be exceeded. 

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