Chinese restaurant syndrome | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 06, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 06, 2008

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Chinese restaurant syndrome

Have you heard the term’ Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ or CRS? This occurs in some people after they eat foods containing the food additive Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) — a common ingredient in Chinese restaurants. This is the salt version of glutamic acid, which is a non-essential amino acid.
In many countries, this commonly used flavour enhancer is sold under the brand name ‘Ajinomoto’. It is also found in a variety of foods, other than Chinese dishes.
Symptoms of CRS may include nausea, vomiting and headache. Sometimes there may be burning sensation on the back of the neck, chest, shoulders, abdomen, thighs, and forearms. In some cases, there may be sweating, palpitations, wheezing and chest pain.
Although similar to an allergic reaction, CRS is more of an intolerance to or side effect of MSG. The mechanism of the reaction is exactly not known. True life-threatening symptoms are extremely rare. The intensity and the duration of symptoms are directly related to the amount of MSG ingested.
A person who eats foods containing MSG on an empty stomach increases the amount absorbed into the bloodstream. Symptoms of CRS can sometimes be avoided by eating food prior to eating MSG.
To make food tasty MSG is a common ingredient these days. This is easily available and a short secret to make something palatable. Even sometimes local street restaurants are using it during making snacks like ‘shingara’ and ‘samucha’.
We should eat out, but we need something healthy. All we have to do is look at the presence of MSG and other unhealthy ingredients which includes the cooking oil as well.
Doctors at a meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in 1990 had a split opinion on the issues related to neurotoxic effects from excitotoxic amino acids found in some additives such as MSG.
Recently in 2008, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, working with Chinese researchers, published a study that found a positive link between MSG intake and obesity in humans.
People with CRS should avoid foods containing high amounts of MSG. Socially responsible restaurants no longer use MSG as a flavour enhancer and have switched to natural seasonings instead.
Unfortunately, some restaurants and food manufacturers still use MSG. The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid foods containing MSG. However, it is possible to manufacture very tasty and flavorful snack foods without the use of MSG as demonstrated by the food manufacturers already.

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