Friday night takeaway can be more than you bargain for.
Friday night is traditional takeaway night. Now largely supplanted by home delivery, for a long time a Friday night family treat was to eat at the local Chinese restaurant. This gave rise to ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’, now called MSG symptom complex (MSGSC). MSG is Monosodium glutamate, a food additive that enhances flavour and is commonly used in takeaways, home deliveries and pre-packaged foods. MSGSC symptoms include breathing difficulties, chest pain, facial flushing, headache, numbness or burning pain in the mouth, a rapid heart rate, sweating, swelling of the face.
MSGSC is complex and there has still only been limited research, so science is not entirely sure what causes the symptoms. However, while it may not affect everyone, it appears that some people are extremely sensitive to MSG. One study has reported a significant link between the consumption of MSG and headaches in female participants, while according to a Korean study from 2014, the most common side effects are thirstiness (84.5%), drowsiness (55.7%), weakness (34.5%), nausea (30.2%), headache (14.7%). Fortunately, severe and life-threatening symptoms are rare, but they can resemble those of an allergic reaction.
Mild symptoms typically clear up without treatment, but staying hydrated, resting and a drinking ginger or peppermint tea to reduce nausea are said to help. In the case of more extreme reactions seek medical assistance.
The only way to prevent MSGSC is to stop eating foods that contain the additive, so anyone with a sensitivity to MSG should check whether it is included on food labels or whether a takeaway or home delivery is MSG free. Remember to also check for the full name: monosodium glutamate.
MSG can be in a whole range of processed foods, including packaged and processed meats, such as hot dogs, meat extracts, such as pork extract, canned vegetables, potato chips, soups and stocks. MSG is also known as: E621, hydrolyzed protein, maltodextrin, modified food starch.
And be aware – it’s not just Chinese takeaways – others also use MSG, so ask before ordering.
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