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J Nutr. 2000 Apr;130(4S Suppl):1067S-73S.

Monosodium glutamate and asthma.

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  • 1Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Scripps Clinic and the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Allen et al. (1987) conducted oral monosodium glutamate (MSG) challenges with 32 asthmatic volunteers and reported that 14 reacted to MSG. Another study by Moneret-Vautrin (1987) also reported MSG-induced asthma attacks in 2 of 30 asthmatic patients. Four additional studies have been conducted and none has confirmed the results of the above authors. These studies, by Schwartzstein et al. (1987), Germano (1991), Woods et al. (1998) and Woessner et al. (1999), challenged a total of 45 patients who gave a history of asthma attacks in oriental restaurants. None of these patients experienced asthmatic reactions after ingesting MSG (one-sided confidence interval of 0-0.066). Another 109 asthmatic patients, without a history of asthma in oriental restaurants, also did not react to ingestion of MSG (one-sided confidence interval of 0-0.027). With a confidence interval < 0.05 there is a >95% probability that MSG history-negative asthmatic patients are not sensitive to MSG. For the MSG history-positive asthmatics, 45 patients, in well-performed studies, underwent negative challenges to MSG, contrasting with two studies reporting positive challenges. Allen et al. (1987) and Moneret-Vautrin (1987), who reported positive MSG challenge results, performed studies with the following characteristics: 1) single blinded, conducted after discontinuing essential antiasthma medications; 2) used effort-dependent peak expiratory flow rate measurement of lung function; 3) added AM bronchodilators in some patients; 4) ignored wandering baselines on the placebo challenge days; and 5) conducted some challenges in the AM and some at night. In summary, the existence of MSG-induced asthma, even in history-positive patients, has not been established conclusively.

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