Sue's Blog

MSG & belly fat


A study of over 300 healthy, active rural families in Thailand found that a high intake of MSG is associated with belly fat.

Being scientists, they put it scientifically: “… significantly associated with being overweight and having the metabolic syndrome”, a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors including abdominal obesity – otherwise known as belly fat. 

Families were chosen if they shared home-cooked meals prepared for family members at least twice a day and reported regular use of MSG as a food additive.  The families were given a box of MSG to use in their meals for ten days and then the box was weighed to find out how much they had used. Those using the highest amounts were more likely to have signs of metabolic syndrome.

The findings agreed with two previous studies in healthy Chinese subjects:

“MSG intake was associated with an increased risk of being overweight regardless of total calorie intake and physical activity.”

Another study found no connection with overweight but instead, a connection with “increased waist circumference”, in other words - belly fat.

Animal studies also support an association between high doses of MSG and obesity or other metabolic disorder markers.

Researchers commented that non-MSG users were not included because, in those villages:

“… it is rare to find non-MSG users … anyone who eats out or buys food from a retailer or a restaurant generally cannot avoid MSG exposure”.

Our members agree with researchers! It is hard to avoid MSG exposure.  In Australia, we have identified 129 different and often deliberately confusing ways of labelling MSG in food products

How to avoid MSG?

This will become impossible if the food industry has their way: there is currently a proposal to use an enzyme that increases glutamate (MSG) content of a food but doesn’t have to be listed on the label because it is classified as a 'processing aid'.

“Since being on the diet my children's appetite has diminished incredibly. Simply because they no longer have cravings and feel hungry after eating a meal.…” - from story [1175]

Other side effects of MSG

Our readers have reported various reactions to MSG including headaches, migraines, severe insomnia, vivid nightmares, itchy rashes, heart palpitations, atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeats, depression, griping abdominal pains, bowel pain, diarrhoea, brain fog, inability to remember, arthritis, children’s behaviour problems and asthma, see below.


Read more

Our MSG story collection

Our MSG factsheet

Our readers' stories (use search function eg MSG, 621:)

The science

Insawang T and others, Monosodium glutamate (MSG) intake is associated with the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in a rural Thai population, Nutr Metab (Lond), 20128;9(1):50.

Plus a response to criticism from Dr Rogers representing the glutamate industry, which I thought was really interesting, especially for the following 3 points.  First, they note that that data from one of the studies considered as negative by Dr Rogers reported “a larger waist circumference” – in other words, more belly fat - in higher MSG users; second, they didn’t include non-MSG users because it is rare to find them, and lastly none of the 13 investigators in their paper has any ties to industry, meaning they can be completely objective.


Epidemiology and animal models suggest that dietary monosodium glutamate (MSG) may contribute to the onset of obesity and the metabolic syndrome.
Families (n = 324) from a rural area of Thailand were selected and provided MSG as the sole source for the use in meal preparation for 10 days. Three hundred forty-nine subjects aged 35-55 years completed the study and were evaluated for energy and nutrient intake, physical activity, and tobacco smoking. The prevalence of overweight and obesity (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2), insulin resistance (HOMA-IR >3), and the metabolic syndrome (ATP III criteria) were evaluated according to the daily MSG intake.
The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome was significantly higher in the tertile with the highest MSG intake. Further, every 1 g increase in MSG intake significantly increased the risk of having the metabolic syndrome (odds ratio 1.14, 95% confidence interval-CI- 1.12 - 1.28) or being overweight (odds ratio 1.16, 95% CI 1.04 - 1.29), independent of the total energy intake and the level of physical activity.
Higher amounts of individual MSG consumption are associated with the risk of having the metabolic syndrome and being overweight independent of other major determinants.