Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

Recently, my roommates and I went to dinner at a Thai restaurant near our apartment. After the meal, one of my roommates joked around about MSG in his meal. I told him that MSG is actually harmless which sparked a conversation about the food additive.

Growing up, I was exposed to the idea that MSG was bad for you. Later, I discovered that MSG is harmless. It’s a food additive, similar to salt. Yes, MSG is bad in high doses but that’s the case for salt as well.

So where does the belief that MSG is unhealthy originate? Back in the 60s, a doctor wrote a letter to a medical journal titled, Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” where he mentioned MSG as the cause of various symptoms such as headaches and abdominal pain. This sparked a media reaction stigmatizing MSG and Chinese food.

Years later, this myth has been debunked. It’s been proven that MSG is harmless. Yet the narrative, motivated by racism and xenophobia still exists.

March 8, 2023

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