Food & Drink

Anthony Bourdain Thinks Fear of MSG Is Bullshit (and He's Probably Right)

anthony bourdain
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Monosodium glutamate gets a bad rap. Commonly known as MSG, the chemical compound is a synthetic production of glutamates that are naturally occurring in foods like tomatoes, Parmesan, and mushrooms. And it's the unjustly stereotyped whipping boy for every problem associated with cheap Chinese food: headaches, bubble guts, rapidly reoccurring hunger, impotence (probably). 

But the hate against MSG is as unfair as one fortune cookie with two orders of General Tso's. MSG is almost definitely not bad for you -- double-blind studies show little correlation between it and adverse symptoms, meaning the so-called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" is in your head. If you're not feeling so hot after that cheap takeout, it's probably the same reason that you don't feel so great after housing a meat lover's pizza solo: a ton of salt, saturated fats, and simple starches.

And if for some reason you don't trust science, maybe you'll trust Anthony Bourdain -- who recently decried the monosodium glutamate hate on a trip to Sichuan, China on CNN's Parts UnknownThis is his unfiltered opinion on the negative perception of MSG:

"You know what causes Chinese restaurant syndrome? Racism. 'Ooh I have a headache; it must have been the Chinese guy.'"

If the semi-condescending words of the world's preeminent traveler/eater/author/chef can't sway the MSG truthers toward this actually pretty damn convenient truth, maybe nothing will. 

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He's never once peed on a busboy, but once he threw up on a horse. Follow him @wilfulton.