Will the food additive MSG make me gain weight?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine

A recent study from China found that those who ate the most MSG were 30 percent heavier than those who ate the least. In this video, Dr. Robin Miller explains why MSG could pack the pounds on those who eat it.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

MSG or monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer found in Chinese food, canned and processed foods. In the US the Food and Drug Administration requires that MSG be on food labels because some people are sensitive to it. MSG contains sodium which may cause your body to retain water and therefore cause weight gain. In addition, highly processed foods which contain MSG may also be lower in nutrients and higher in fat and calories which may cause weight gain.

Dee Sandquist
Nutrition & Dietetics
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is common in ethnic cooking and is used as a flavor enhancer. In addition, MSG has a unique flavor. MSG contains sodium and glutamate. Most likely the weight gain is the result of eating too much of the food that contains the MSG. Since MSG makes foods taste better, the risk for weight gain may be eating too much because the food tastes so good.
Nadine Pazder
Nutrition & Dietetics

Only flavor enhancers that contain calories (sugar, honey, fats, and oils) can contribute to your daily energy intake and over time affect your weight.

MSG does contain sodium which can cause fluid retention in individuals who are sodium sensitive or have heart failure or kidney disease. Fluid retention can show up on the bathroom scale as weight gain.

If you are someone who needs to be cautious with sodium in your diet you should exercise caution with MSG as well.

MSG is a food additive used in restaurant and processed foods to boost flavor, but research shows monosodium glutamate side effects may include weight gain. People who started a study at a healthy weight but were among the highest MSG consumers -- taking in about 5 grams a day -- were 33% more likely to be overweight at the end of the study 5 years later. And, surprisingly, it's not because better-tasting food enticed people to eat more. The monosodium glutamate side effects bumped up the risk of extra pounds, regardless of calorie intake. The researchers suspect the MSG food additive might somehow interfere with the signaling powers of appetite-regulating hormones. But while a growing body of research suggests MSG may have negative impacts on weight and appetite hormones, more research still needs to be done to confirm the findings and understand the exact influence of the monosodium glutamate side effects.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.