New Campaign Aims to Remove ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ From Dictionary


Wow, when I read the headline, I just assumed the term was found in the Urban Dictionary or some similar, not totally citable reference. But, Merriam-Webster?!

1 Like

I think it belongs in the dictionary, but the definition should make it clearer that it was a hoax and is regarded by some as racist.

1 Like

I can’t believe the term is in the dictionary. At the very least there should be a sentence about it being considered derogatory and racist, like other unsavory (no pun) terms in the dictionary. I mean, I love Cheddar Cheese & Sour Cream Ruffles w/MSG and there’s nothing Chinese about them. With that said, it’s important to distinguish between naturally occurring MSG and synthetic MSG. I do have a girlfriend who gets a migraine from just a pinch of the stuff.

1 Like

There’s no difference between natural and synthetic MSG. It’s the same chemical.

1 Like

If that’s the case then it’s not a myth that MSG can cause side effects. Because it gives my friend a migraine and that’s a fact. She’s not the only one.

I get pain near my diaphragm whenever I have soup or something very saucy from a cheap Chinese place. Maybe it’s not an MSG side effect, but it doesn’t happen at any other time. Whatever the root cause, the “syndrome” is very real for me.

So she get migraines every time she eats tomatoes, parmesan, soy sauce etc. etc. ?

No, see, that’s the point. She gets a headache when she eats food with the additive. So there’s gotta’ be a difference between natural and synthetic, but I’m not interested in reading an article about it or arguing with Robert about it.

Believe what you will.

But for everyone else, here are some double-blind studies that were unable to find a link between MSG and symptoms commonly associated with “Chinese Restaurant Syndome”:

I know people who get migraines from what they think about their food.

1 Like

The study that would be helpful to me involves serving me two bowls of soup, identical except that one contains MSG and the other does not. Because I’m definitely reacting to something.

There’s a good thread on Twitter about it from Kenji

Here’s the link to his article.

read the thread but he gets to a certain point where he says
“The point is, though, that there is evidence that it exists in a specific circumstance. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also exist in other circumstances. So people who say “you have to eat x amount to have an effect” are falsely extrapolating”
“IE just because e can prove it happens in some people in some specific cases, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also happen in many other cases that we simply have not scientifically documented yet. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it does, with some frequency”.
“We just haven’t necessarily figured out what those circumstances are in an actual test setting.”


Thank you for sharing the article which cites a scientific study. Scientific studies get serious consideration, personal anecdotes get dismissed out of hand (regardless of which side they support).

Where did you pull the quotes from at the bottom of your post? I couldn’t find them in the Twitter thread and they are a little confusing when taken out of context.

Important takeaways from the article:

  1. The conclusion of the study was that MSG does, in fact, elicit adverse responses from a particularly sensitive subgroup of the population when administered in large doses (greater than three grams) on a mostly empty stomach. The existence of MSG Symptom Complex is concrete scientific fact.
  • Note: These are Kenji’s words. The words from the actual study are:

The results suggest that large doses of MSG given without food may elicit symptoms more than placebo in individuals who report they react adversely to MSG. However, neither persistent nor serious effects from MSG ingestion are observed, and the responses were not consistent on retesting.

  1. Some have hypothesized that when it comes to Chinese restaurants specifically, MSG-rich broths consumed on an empty stomach may be part of the culprit, but there’s also a good possibility that some folks who claim sensitivity to MSG may in fact be experiencing reactions to other ingredients common in Chinese food but not so common in other restaurant cuisine such as the peanut oil frequently used for stir-frying, the shellfish extracts used for flavoring, or herbs like cilantro. As far as I am aware, there is currently no scientific data that would elevate this hypothesis to theory.

  2. It’s important to remember that in virtually every study, it was only when glutamic acid was consumed on a nearly empty stomach that adverse reactions manifested. When paired with enough food, symptoms virtually vanished < even for those that self-reported as MSG-sensitive. >(emphasis is mine)

1 Like

If you keep scrolling down, It’s on the thread and replies on Twitter. The 3 quotes i pulled was from Kenji’s posts on that thread.

click on the replies with Dave Arnold

1 Like

BTW, i’m not an MSG hater.


Me neither. :roll_eyes:


There is no chemical difference between “natural” and “synthetic” MSG - it is the same compound. You can’t just ignore science. Your friend shows a typical placebo effect - that’s the reason why clinical studies are double blinded. I am certain if your friend would eat several identical looking plates - some with “natural”, some with “synthetic” and some without MSG she would get migraines based on a random statistics

Oh lord. I don’t ignore science. I just don’t care to read articles about MSG. :roll_eyes: I’ll take your word for it and next time I see my girlfriend I’ll confront her about her migraines and demand to speak to her doctor.

The one real issue researchers found that was that some people have a reaction consuming MSG without food on an empty stomach, and the one way you’d be likely to do that outside of a lab would be with a light broth laced with MSG served as an opening course in a Chinese restaurant.