Thursday, September 01, 2005

Chinese Food Syndrome

Chinese Food Syndrome was first described in 1968 in people who had eaten Chinese food with added MSG (monosodium glutamate). The syndrome occurs in small number of people. Their symptoms may include headache, throbbing of the head, dizziness, lightheadedness, a feeling of facial pressure, tightness of the jaw, burning or tingling sensations over parts of the body, chest pain, and back pain. Large amounts of MSG may cause arterial dilatation (widening of arteries). Many Chinese do not believe in the existence of the Chinese restaurant syndrome. In some people it may be a hypersensitive (allergic) reaction. It should be also noted that foods with added MSG do not necessarily contain more glutamate than what is found naturally in some other foods.

MSG is a sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid that enhances the flavor of certain foods. Originally isolated from seaweed, MSG is now made by fermenting corn, potatoes and rice. It does not enhance the four basic tastes (bitter, salty, sour, sweet) but it does enhance the complex flavors of meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables. MSG is an important ingredient in the cuisines of China and Japan and is used commercially worldwide in many types of foods. It is naturally present at high levels in tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. In China, MSG is also known as wei jing, which means flavor essence.


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