Looking for a nice long-form article to read this weekend? We recommend you head over to BuzzFeeᴅ and check out this feature on the history of MSG—the much and unfairly maligned naturally occurring ingredient in so many of our favorite foods.
The piece, written by former PopularScience.com head honcho John Mahoney, dives deep into the science and history of monosodium glutamate. It should give you plenty of ammo the next time your older relatives refuse to eat at your favorite Chinese restaurant due to a mistaken belief that MSG causes headaches or other illness. An excerpt:
Glutamic acid is one of 20 amino acids that are crucial to the human body’s proper functioning. Without it, we would die, but it is referred to as a nonessential amino acid because our bodies can produce all we need on their own, and we don’t depend on consuming it directly with our food. Glutamic acid is found throughout our bodies, where it is crucial to cell metabolism. In the brain, it is an important neurotransmitter, regulating learning and memory. Every second in our heads, quadrillions of microscopic glutamate bombs explode every time a neuron fires, passing electrical signals through our synapses.
It’s a great piece; the history of MSG and anti-MSG fervor is a heady mix of chemistry, racism, and taste, all folded up into the history of American food and the several renaissances it’s seen in the past five or six decades. Read it here.