Why do people love the taste of Umami but avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is the purest form of Umami on Earth? In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Kavin Senapathy speaks with experts on MSG— which was first isolated by Japanese chemist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda— to explore this culinary and scientific disconnect.
Tia Rains, PhD, is currently Senior Director of Public Relations at Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition (Ajinomoto was founded in 1907 to manufacture and sell Ikeda’s MSG). She has over 20 years of experience in the fields of food and nutrition.
Mary Lee Chin MS, RD, has been involved in dietetics for over 40 years. She consults with food industry and commodity groups; including Monsanto, Ajinomoto, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
In 1968, a letter was published in the New England Journal of Medicine about “numbness at the back of the neck, gradually radiating to both arms and the back, and general weakness and palpitation” after eating food from Chinese restaurants. The letter spurred decades of research into the so-called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” What does the science say about MSG, what roles do marketing and branding play, and what do mice have to do with all of this?